Illinois and Michigan have agreed to work together to keep invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes in a deal that brings the long-awaited Brandon Road project closer to reality.

Illinois can use up to $8 million appropriated in 2018 by the Michigan legislature for pre-construction engineering and design on the lock and dam in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) near Joliet, Ill. — a key control point for the fish.

The initial design phase, approved by Illinois and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in late December and announced last week, has Illinois kicking in $2.5 million.

The Corps plan unveiled several years ago with a pricetag of $778 million includes electric barriers, an air bubble curtain and an acoustic fish deterrent at the Des Plaines River lock designed to block the carp while allowing barge traffic.

Once federal funding is approved, the corps expects it will take three to four years to complete the Brandon Road design before negotiating an agreement with Illinois and other Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces for the rest of the project.

Since 2002, three electric barriers have been installed in the river near Romeoville, Ill., and a fourth more powerful barrier is expected to be up and running this year, the states said.

The plan for Brandon Road, which handles about 13 million tons annually, is part of an issue that has pitted states, politicians and businesses against one another for years. The 2014 Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) outlined eight alternatives to stop the spread of the carp. The most drastic would separate the lakes from the Mississippi River basin and cost the barge, passenger vessel, chemical, agricultural and other groups billions. But the carp also threaten the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishing and tourism industries.          

The announcement by the states and corps “is a significant step forward in the effort to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp,” Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., co-chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force, said in a statement. “It is critical that funding for Brandon Road be included in the 2021 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work plan to protect the Great Lakes and move the project to its next steps.”

Dale DuPont has been a correspondent for WorkBoat since 1998. She has worked at daily and weekly newspapers in Texas, Maryland, and most recently as a business writer and editor at The Miami Herald, covering the cruise, marine and other industries. She and her husband once owned a weekly newspaper in Cooperstown, N.Y., across the alley from the Baseball Hall of Fame. A South Florida resident, she enjoys sailing on Biscayne Bay, except in hurricane season.

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