U.S. finds funds for fence to
Aim is to protect Great Lakes fish
By Michael Hawthorne
Under pressure from members of Congress, the Army Corps
of Engineers has agreed to pay for a new electric fence
to stop gluttonous Asian carp from swimming into Lake
Corps officials in Chicago have nearly completed designing
a more permanent barrier to replace electrical cables
that were strung across the Chicago Sanitary and Ship
Canal two years ago and are starting to wear out.
But officials in the corps' Washington headquarters decided
last month to cut $4.4 million needed to complete the
job, citing a need to pay for ongoing work in Iraq and
After a flurry of meetings with and telephone calls and
letters from angry Great Lakes lawmakers, the corps' top
brass assured them Friday there will be enough money to
build the fish fence this summer.
"It's rare to see the entire delegation so strongly
united on a project," said U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert
(R-Ill.), who represents the area where the new barrier
will be built. "We can't let this species get into
the Great Lakes."
Asian carp ate their way up the Mississippi and Illinois
Rivers in the last decade after escaping from fish farms
during flooding in Southern states. The females lay millions
of eggs, and adults devour up to 40 percent of their body
weight in a day, mostly by straining out tiny organisms
that provide the base of the food chain for popular sport
fish such as bass and walleye.
If the carp get into Lake Michigan via the canal, officials
fear they could cause more ecological and economic damage
to the Great Lakes than the sea lampreys, zebra mussels
and other invasive species that already are wreaking havoc
in the massive freshwater ecosystem. Commercial and sport
fishing in the lakes is a $4 billion-a-year industry.
Jolts of electricity from cables strung across the bottom
of the canal have persuaded fish to turn back. Scientists
also are experimenting with bursts of air bubbles and
sound waves to keep the carp from spreading.