The Corps of Engineers is recommending a $275.3 million combination of an electric barrier, underwater noise and a mooring area at the Brandon Road Lock & Dam in Illinois to keep menacing Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. The cost to navigation interests during construction is an estimated $26.2 million.
The tentative plan in a long-awaited study released Monday outlines five other options – ranging from no action, and therefore no cost, to a $5.9 million lock closure with a $318.7 million hit to navigation.
Under the preferred alternative, silver and bighead carp have a 13% probability of establishment in the lakes, versus 29% with no action and 2% with a lock closure.
The goal is to provide for continued navigation while preventing nuisance species like the carp from getting to the lakes through the Chicago Area Water System (CAWS) at the lock on the Des Plaines River near Joliet, Ill., which the Corps considers a control point for stopping the fish.
The carp issue has pitted states, politicians and businesses against one another for several years. Carp would threaten the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishing and tourism industries. But separating the lakes from the Mississippi River basin altogether — the most drastic choice in a January 2014 study — would cost the barge, passenger vessel, chemical, agricultural and other groups billions as well.
The tentative plan for Brandon Road (officially called the “Technology Alternative – Complex Noise with Electric Barrier”) includes nonstructural measures, noise from underwater speakers, water jets, an engineered channel, an electric barrier, a flushing lock, boat launches, and a mooring area, the new report says. Construction would take four years from authorization.
Citing concerns raised by the navigation community about electric barrier safety and about the location and design of the mooring areas, the Corps said it would work with the Coast Guard to evaluate the control measures.
Unlock Our Jobs, a coalition of maritime, agriculture and other interests, said it was carefully reviewing the corps report. In a statement, the group said it “supports the suite of non-structural efforts implemented” by Illinois and federal agencies to further reduce the risk of Asian carp entering Lake Michigan. “Continued application of these efforts will provide the best economic and environmental protection value for the nation.”
An 8-lb., 28” Asian carp was found in late June in a Chicago waterway below the O’Brien Lock and Dam about nine miles from Lake Michigan. The live fish was caught by a commercial fisherman working with the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC). The adult male silver carp was sent to Southern Illinois University for additional analysis including age and place of origin.
This is the second time in eight years of CAWS monitoring that a carp has been found above electric barriers installed to stop the fish.
The public has until Sept. 21 to comment through the website http://glmris.anl.gov/brandon-rd/ or by mail to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District, Attn: GLMRIS-Brandon Road Comments, 231 S. LaSalle St., Suite 1500, Chicago, Ill. 60604. The Corps said it also is planning public meetings on the report.