After Public Pressure, Trump Administration Authorizes Release of Asian Carp Study

Posted on August 10, 2017 by

On June 22nd a live silver carp was caught in the Calumet River on Chicago’s south side, approximately 9 miles from Lake Michigan and well beyond the electric barrier network designed to prevent invasive fish from reaching Lake Michigan.

This wake-up-call event brought renewed attention to a long-awaited Army Corps of Engineers study centered on a lock and dam near Brandon Road in Chicago.  Redesigning and renovating the Brandon Road lock and dam is an essential component in halting the spread of Asian carp, but a directive by the Trump administration in February delayed the release of this critical study indefinitely.

For weeks Freshwater Future supporters and concerned Great Lakes citizens urged our representatives and senators on both sides of the aisle to require the Trump Administration to release the Brandon Road Study, and with your help we were successful! The 400-page study was finally released this week.

Below we’ve summarized the Army Corps of Engineers’ recommendations for renovating this critical choke point.

  1. Nonstructural activities
    • Future education and outreach would encourage compliance with prevention programs through the development of informational videos, fact sheets, brochures, and signage to increase public awareness.
    • Future monitoring would maintain and improve carp detection techniques.
    • Integrated pest management would involve the application of novel monitoring, removal, and deterrent measures that focus on the various life stages of carp species.
    • Piscicides would be used selectively as effective, short-term, chemical poisons.
    • Manual or mechanical removal of carp species would be achieved through contracted commercial fishing and through encouraging overfishing in key locations.
    • Future R&D would provide additional prevention and control opportunities, exploit known life-history vulnerabilities and behavioral characteristics, and address weaknesses in current technologies that are in use on the waterway.
  2. Re-engineering the channel would minimize stray current from the electric barrier, increase the likelihood of fish detection using sonar and hydroacoustic monitoring, and simplify clearing of fish within the channel.
  3. Complex noise would be delivered to the waterway through underwater speakers. Target frequencies and decibel levels would deter aquatic life from navigating upstream.
  4. Water jets would disrupt any barge-induced currents that often pull aquatic species alongside the barge.
  5. An electric barrier would consist of steel electrodes that would be secured to the bottom of the lock. The electrodes would be connected to a raceway, consisting of electrical connections to a control building. Equipment in the control building would generate a direct current pulse through the electrodes, creating an electric field in the water that would discourage fish from crossing.
  6. Flushing the lock before vessels enter the upper pool would help expel any aquatic life.
  7. Boat launches would be constructed upstream and downstream of the lock to reduce reaction time and increase the efficiency of crews carrying out monitoring and rapid response work.
  8. A new mooring location would allow operators to reconfigure their barges to meet navigation restrictions due to the presence of an electric barrier in the engineered channel.

These technologies are readily available and would certainly help slow the spread of Asian carp. But despite the comprehensive nature of the Army Corps alternatives and overall recommendation, these measures are not foolproof. Full implementation would cost of hundreds of millions in long term construction, maintenance, and management and still leaves a 13% chance of Asian Carp making the jump to Lake Michigan.

For this reason, Freshwater Future continues to advocate for a complete separation of the Chicago Area Waterway System and the Great Lakes Basin. Given the severity and irreversible nature of the threat, a permanent barrier provides the strongest assurance against the spread of Asian carp and is the best way to safeguard our waters.


© 2021 Freshwater Future. All Rights Reserved.

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