The most radical and expensive solution the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers outlined to stop the spread of Asian carp and other invasive species in the Midwest would cost $18.4 billion and take 25 years to complete.
The monumental feat would separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River basin — waterways joined more than a century ago.
Termed “Lakefront Hydrologic Separation,” the option is Alternative Plan 5 of eight the Corps submitted to Congress this week to keep the menacing carp out of the lakes where they threaten the $7 billion fishing and tourism industries. The voracious fish can weigh up to 100 lbs. and leap 10 feet. Electronic barriers would be built at Chicago, Wilmette and Calumet City, Ill., and Hammond, Ind., as well as treatment facilities at the three Illinois locations.
Several other options would cost just $15.5 billion.
The proposals also would affect commercial and noncommercial navigation as the Corps notes with a little red “x” in a box under the “Users impacted” category in its report. The American Waterways Operators (AWO), among other marine interests, has said that lock closures would jeopardize barge movements of billions of dollars worth of goods and cause economic damage to the region.
The study ordered by Congress continues the debate that has raged the last few years and pitted Midwest states and marine, fishing and other industries against one another in and out of court and Congress.
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the report didn’t go far enough or move fast enough toward developing a permanent solution.
The Corps has installed electronic barriers to stop the fish, but the fish can get past the barriers, according to a study released last month by the Corps and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the potential impacts of barge tows crossing the barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC).
“Initial findings indicate that vessel induced residual flows can trap fish and transport them beyond the electrical barriers, and that certain barge configurations may impact barrier electric field strength,” the report said.
The Corps will hold public meetings this month on its report in Chicago, Cleveland, Ann Arbor, Mich., Traverse City, Mich., St. Paul, Minn., St. Louis and Milwaukee. Comments will be accepted until March 3.