Hook, Line & Sinker: Electric barrier
won't end threat of Asian carp
Published January 20th, 2005
The relatively mild early winter helped the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers stay on track to complete a permanent
electric fish barrier on the Illinois River to prevent
Asian carp from infesting the Great Lakes.
But, officials say the barrier won't end the threat to
the Great Lakes sports fishery posed by the exotic carp
species that grow to be nearly 100 pounds.
Once the barrier is complete sometime this summer, corps
engineers must confront the possibility high water on
the Des Plaines River near Lemont where the barrier is
being built could create a watery passage to allow carp
into the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal and into
"There is a small possibility that if it floods,
there would be a hydraulic link," said Chuck Shea,
barrier project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"But, we have to focus on cutting off the much more
direct connection by finishing the permanent barrier."
After the permanent barrier goes on-line, Shea said the
corps will launch a study to identify low points where
a water bridge would appear during floods. It doesn't
happen often. But, it does happen. The last known link
that would have bypassed the location of the permanent
barrier occurred in 1996 during what was considered a
100-year flood, he said.
High water in early January failed to create a water
bridge between the Des Plaines and the sanitary channel,
The permanent barrier is being built at a price tag of
$9 million raised from the federal government and the
states bordering the Great Lakes. Officials in Illinois,
a chief contributor, are coordinating fund-raising efforts
with other states, Shea said. More money is needed to
complete the project on time.
But, the cost will be small compared to the economic
disaster that might occur to the Great Lakes sport fishery
if even one egg-laden Asian carp makes it to Lake Michigan.
Asian carp were brought to the United States by aqua
farmers to raise for food. But, flooding on the Mississippi
River reached the ponds where the fish were kept. They
were released into the Mississippi River where they began
multiplying and swimming upstream. They are plentiful
in the Illinois River as far north as Starved Rock State
Park in Utica. They also have reached Lake Pepin on the
Mississippi River on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Asian carp eat plankton, the base of the food chain for
all young fish and small forage fish on which game species
depend. Their long-term impact on game fish populations
The permanent structure will replace a temporary one
that went on-line in April, 2002. Its projected life span
is three to five years. After that time, engineers expect
problems that could lead to its failure, Shea said.
The immediacy of the threat was driven home when an Asian
carp was found dead downstream from the temporary barrier
not long ago.
Minnesota officials are talking about erecting a barrier
on the Mississippi River in their state.