Plan to block Asian carp from Great Lakes opposed by Illinois governor

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) —  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is recommending a mixture of technologies including loud noises and water jets at a crucial site in Illinois to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes, but is doing so without the support of the state’s top executive.

The corps released a draft report Monday analyzing options for upgrading the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet. The complex is on the Des Plaines River a few miles downstream from electric barriers intended to prevent fish in the Mississippi River watershed from reaching Lake Michigan through Chicago-area waterways.

Brandon Road is considered a bottleneck where new structures or technologies could strengthen defenses against Asian carp. Scientists say if the carp reach the Great Lakes, they could devastate a $7 billion fishing industry by crowding out native species.

The report also suggests installing another electric barrier.

The draft report includes technological and structural measures such as underwater noisemakers, an electric dispersal barrier and a new flushing lock. The estimated price tag is $275 million.

Howard Learner of the Environmental Law and Policy Center says the government should quickly secure Chicago-area waters, where Asian carp from the Mississippi River and its tributaries could enter Lake Michigan.

Other environmental groups say the plan is a step forward but doesn’t address the need to stop Great Lakes species from migrating to the Mississippi.

However, the Brandon Road plan is not supported by the administration of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner. His Lieutenant Governor. Evelyn Sanguinetti said in a statement the barrier is “neither cost effective nor environmentally sound.”

Illinois taxpayers would be on the hook for over $95 million in construction cost and another $8 million in annual operation and maintenance costs, Sanguinetti added.

The project will hurt the Illinois economy and the commercial navigation industry that moves over $28 billion of commodities annually through the Chicago Area Waterway System and along the Illinois River, the statement read. Furthermore, this project at Brandon Road will separate the Des Plaines River and Illinois River ecosystems, disrupting native fish migration patterns.

“Illinois will continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers and stakeholders in support of a science-based strategy that not only keeps Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, but also protects our taxpayers, our economy and our ecosystems,” she wrote.