Our Take: Army Corps Plan to Stop Asian Carp

Posted on August 22, 2017 by


On Monday, August 7, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft plan for how to protect the Great Lakes from invasive Asian carp. It examined options for bolstering defenses at a lock and dam structure near Joliet, Ill.—officially called the Brandon Road Lock and Dam—which is a choke point between the current habitat of Asian carp and the Great Lakes.

The draft study was ready for release in February, but the Trump Administration delayed its release for five months. The live capture of a silver carp on the Lake Michigan side of the electric deterrents in June, combined with Bi-partisan Congressional pressure and public outcry, forced the Trump Administration to release the study.

The draft plan can be found at:

Why is this study important? 

  • Asian carp pose a serious threat to the Great Lakes. They are a group of invasive species that have devastated ecosystems in the Mississippi and Illinois River basins, where they have out-competed native fish for food and habitat.
  • Current defenses are inadequate. A series of electric barriers in Illinois waterways designed to repel fish from migrating upstream are not 100% effective.
  • Implementing defense measures at Brandon Road Lock and Dam is the next step in protecting the Great Lakes from a carp invasion. Once the plan is finalized, we need Congress to act swiftly to authorize implementation.
  • The Trump Administration’s reckless delay of the study shortened the time frame to respond. The five-month delay has only increased the urgency of these necessary actions. In June, an Asian carp was found 9 miles from Lake Michigan, well past the electric barriers meant to prevent their spread. It’s time to get to work.

Our Take

The Brandon Road Study details promising solutions that would serve as a dramatic improvement to the current measures employed to ward off invasive Asian carp species. Details of these measures can be found below.

The Corps should finalize its recommendation as quickly as possible, and Congress should move forward urgently to authorize and appropriate the necessary actions to protect our Great Lakes, fish and wildlife, and water-dependent economy.

However, even if all of the Corps’ recommendations are implemented, there is still an estimated 13% chance that Asian carp will break through the lock and dam and swim into the Chicago waterways directly connected to Lake Michigan. This is unacceptable. These measures cannot be the end of the road for anti-carp action.

A key mission of the Army Corps of Engineers is to facilitate shipping in the nation’s waters; however, the Stop Invasive Species Act of 2012 requires the Corps to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, not just reduce the risk. Therefore, the Corps should have recommended the closure of the Brandon Road lock and dam, an option they acknowledged as the most effective measure for preventing the spread of carp. Freshwater Future believes that the best plan for preventing the spread of Asian carp is restoring the natural divide between the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes. This would require closing the Brandon Road lock and dam.

Add Your Public Comment

The Army Corps of Engineers is soliciting public comments here. Public comments need not be long, just unique; thus we have not provided a template for you to alter or submit.

The best public comments will emphasize the looming threat of Asian carp to Great Lakes ecosystems and industries, the urgency of finalizing these plans in the study, the importance of implementing all of the recommended measures, and the need for eventual complete separation of Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River.

A few key facts:

  • If allowed into the lakes, Asian carp will congregate in shallow waters near coastlines where they will disrupt the lives of millions of residents and tourists who depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water, recreation, and economic stability.
  • Implementing the measures in this study would cost $275 million, a bargain when considered in context with the multi-billion dollar economies that rely on the Great Lakes.
  • Asian carp can grow up to 100lbs, consuming up to 40 percent of their body weight daily in plankton and algae that other fish species need to survive.
  • Silver carp leap out of the water when disturbed by passing boats, injuring boaters and causing property damage.
  • The Great Lakes are home to a $7 billion fishing industry, $16 billion recreational boating industry, and an $18 billion hunting and wildlife observation industry.
  • Allowing Asian carp into the lakes would mean wasting the hundreds of millions of dollars already spent restoring and protecting the Great Lakes.

More Information

Complex Noise 

Complex noise is underwater sound generated to deter fish from entering the Brandon Road Lock approach channel. However, this measure would not control the passage of floating or hitchhiking organisms.

Electric Dispersal Barrier

An electric dispersal barrier creates an electric field that repels and stuns fish and would be placed at the downstream extent of the engineered channel.

Engineered Channel

An engineered channel is a concrete structure installed within the downstream approach channel to Brandon Road Lock. The engineered channel serves to increase the effectiveness of other structural control measures, reduce control impacts and serves as a platform to add new technologies in the future, if deemed appropriate.

Flushing Lock

The flushing lock would be designed to exchange water from the upper pool prior to a lockage; thereby removing floating Mississippi River Basin species from the lock. The flushing lock would not control the passage of swimming or hitchhiking species.

Water Jets

Water jets, installed along the bottom of the engineered channel, are designed to remove small and stunned fish that may become entrained in recesses of barges.

Boat Launches

Boat launches would be sited upstream and downstream of Brandon Road Lock and Dam to address limited boat access for safety and anti-invasive-species-related activities.

Mooring Area

This supporting measure is included in alternatives with an electric dispersal barrier in case vessels need to reconfigure prior to locking through Brandon Road Lock.



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.