CHICAGO (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a plan Tuesday to
study how to prevent invasive species — including the voracious Asian carp —
from migrating between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds,
calling it a “massive and complex” effort that could take years.
The primary focus of the estimated $25 million study will be on Chicago-area
waterways, where canals provide the only direct connection between the two
basins. But the Corps also will look at other areas where flooding could
allow invasive species to slip from one watershed to the other.
Concern that the Asian carp, which can grow to 4 feet and 100 pounds, were
close to Lake Michigan prompted the study. But Maj. Gen. John Peabody,
commander of the Corps’ Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, said it will
look at many different types of invasive species.
A final recommendation on how to stop the movement of such species —
possibly by separating the watersheds permanently — is expected to be made
in 2015, Peabody said.
“The scope of this study is massive and complex,” covering an area over
1,000 miles long with dozens of invasive species and “no known or single set
of solutions,” Peabody said. “It will take time, support and cooperation.”
Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, expressed
frustration that the Corps wasn’t further along in its study, which was
authorized by Congress in 2007 and funded last year.
“Is this where we stand ... a plan to do a project?” Brammeier said. “We all
know a solution will not come online overnight, but we continue to see
deadlines pushed back.”
The Alliance advocates permanently separating the two watersheds to stop the
carp from getting into Lake Michigan. Right now, a series of electronic
barriers in the shipping canals that deliver a jolt to the fish are the only
thing between them and the lake.
Asian carp have been migrating up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers toward
the Great Lakes for decades. Biologists fear if the ravenous fish get into
the lakes, they could decimate a $7 billion-a-year fishing industry by
outcompeting native fish for food.
But the shipping industry has argued that any solution must allow them to
still be able to move goods between the Great Lakes and inland waterways.
Peabody said it is possible that some solutions could be implemented before
the study is completed, and that the study could be finished early depending
on funding and if the Corps gets research help from outside agencies and
But it’s also likely that officials will find other areas of research that
need to be pursued, possibly adding to the costs and length of the study, he
The Corps will hold public hearings on the study plan, beginning in Chicago
Meanwhile, a federal judge is expected to rule soon on a lawsuit filed by
five Great Lakes states — Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and
Wisconsin — against the city of Chicago, barge companies and others. The
states are seeking an emergency measure to close two shipping locks and
install barriers to keep Asian carp out of the lakes.
Opponents say that shutting the locks would undermine critical flood-control
measures in the Chicago region, as well as cost barge, tour-boat and other
companies billions of dollars in lost business.