Agencies fish around for carp barrier
Blocking invader from Lake Michigan to cost $20,000 a
By Dan Egan
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published January 8th, 2005
After months of squabbling over who should pay for an
electric barrier to keep Asian carp from invading the
Great Lakes, last fall the federal government and governors
of the eight Great Lakes states finally scrounged together
the necessary $9.1 million.
The new Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal barrier should
be completed next month, but there is still one very big
problem: Nobody seems to have the money to turn it on.
The cost to operate and maintain the barrier is estimated
at $20,000 a month. The state of Illinois is the official
"sponsor" for the federal project, which is
largely funded by the Army Corps of Engineers. That puts
Illinois on the hook for the big - and never-ending -
monthly electrical bill, but Illinois apparently doesn't
have the money.
"Obviously, it's an issue to us, and we've been
very concerned. Our strong feeling is that this project
is national and international in scope," said Dan
Injerd, chief of Lake Michigan management for the Illinois
Department of Natural Resources.
Illinois, therefore, believes the federal government
should pick up the tab, which will run about a quarter
million dollars annually, Injerd said.
"All that the corps is saying they're willing to
do is operate it during the initial test phase,"
said Phil Moy, fisheries specialist for the Wisconsin
Sea Grant Institute.
That test phase likely would last less than three months,
Injerd said there have been at least two bills introduced
in Congress that would have provided funding for the barrier's
operation and maintenance, but they went nowhere.
Asian carp escaped Southern fish farms more than a decade
ago and have been migrating north up the Mississippi River
and its tributaries since. Late last year, a dead Asian
carp was found about two miles below a temporary carp
barrier. The fish was just 35 miles downstream from the
Chicago shore of Lake Michigan.
The fear for the Great Lakes is that the bottom-feeding
fish, which can grow to 100 pounds, will gobble up the
food upon which most every other fish directly or indirectly
depends. That includes salmon and trout, which are the
big draw for a Great Lakes recreational fishery that annually
brings an estimated $4.5 billion into the region.
The temporary barrier was installed in 2002 and has an
estimated life of three to five years. Cables that provide
its electric current are beginning to erode.
Construction of the permanent barrier, meanwhile, stalled
last year when its cost ballooned from about $6 million
to more than $9 million. The Great Lakes states, led by
Illinois, eventually chipped in, and construction began
Injerd said the operation and maintenance funding issue
should not come as a surprise to anyone.
"This has been an issue ever since (Illinois) agreed
to be the local sponsor, going back at least two years,"
Paul Doucette, spokesman for Illinois Congresswoman Judy
Biggert, said his boss will introduce legislation this
year that will seek to clarify the questions surrounding
the barrier's long-term operation and maintenance.
Lake Michigan Federation's Joel Brammeier said these
funding squabbles will continue to pop up until the federal
government commits to a long-term program to keep Asian
carp out of the lakes.
Moy, meanwhile, is not panicked about the situation,
but he hopes the funding will be found soon.
"We're really getting down to the wire here,"