By Joel Brammeier, Alliance for the Great Lakes
The electrical Asian carp barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal were a hot topic at the September, 2006 Healing Our Waters (HOW) coalition conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Listed as a top priority for full federal funding during fiscal year 2007, the permanent Barrier Two today sits half-constructed and unable to operate.
The experimental Barrier One has slid past its design life of 3 years and has 3 failing electrodes. For now, the protection of the Great Lakes depends on this barrier, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has assured the region that it will not go down on their watch.
What happened? A scant two years ago the Illinois DNR was diligently gathering funds from around the basin to pay the states’ share of Barrier II cost while the USACE found dollars to put toward project completion.
Unfortunately, safety concerns have intruded. Potential electrical sparking between barges that are tied together has always been a concern on this commercial waterway. Experts believed that this problem could be eliminated through appropriate management practices, such as avoiding barge fleeting above the barrier site.
But another problem reared its head. Not long after phase one of Barrier Two was completed and tested, it became obvious that electrical current was spilling downstream beyond the limits initially claimed by project designers. The current extends to a dock where coal barges offload, making the risk of sparking too great to allow Barrier Two to begin operating.
Design and installation of enhanced safety measures is now chewing through the original Barrier Two budget. USACE needs additional authorizations and appropriat i o n s during fiscal year 2007 to complete Barrier Two and take over full operation, maintenance and upgrade responsibilities for both barriers.
Language supporting these needs can be found in the Water Resources Development Act of 2006. Citizens around the region will be looking anxiously to their elected officials to take the next step in protecting the Great Lakes from invasive species.
For more information about invasive species and the Chicago Waterway System:
Alliance for the Great Lakes
PH: 312-939-0838 x 224