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Great Lakes Article:

Monster carp scare Chicago
By Mike Ramsey of Copley News Service
Published October 14th, 2004

CHICAGO - Chicago to the rest of Illinois: Keep your carp.
A variety of city, state and federal officials on Wednesday announced final plans for a $9.1 million system designed to repel Asian carp, the invasive, vegetation-devouring species that already has infiltrated waterways south of Interstate 80.

With new funding from Congress, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will install underwater electric barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal near south suburban Romeoville, where a test system has proven successful, to prevent Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan and the neighboring Great Lakes.

"They could and would completely disrupt the biodiversity and the ecosystem of the lakes. The bottom line is, we have to stop them," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Mike Leavitt said during a news conference near Navy Pier. "The president wanted them stopped, Congress wanted them stopped. We now have a barrier; we'll build it. If, in fact, more needs to be done, we'll do it."

Central and southern Illinois residents already are familiar with the pesky Asian carp, a nonnative bottom-feeder that was let loose in Arkansas waters in the late 1970s. The fish - each of which can grow upward of 50 pounds - reportedly have migrated in Illinois as far north as Starved Rock State Park via the Illinois River.

Besides hogging underwater food sources, Asian carp are known to jump at the sound of boat engines, becoming dangerous projectiles. In a widely publicized incident in October 2003, a Peoria woman who was water skiing on the Peoria Lakes basin was struck unconscious by a flying Asian carp. In the Springfield area, the fish have spread to the Sangamon River watershed, and they've been pulled from the tranquil ponds at Washington Park in the state capital.

Chicago may be spared the nuisance, but what kind of relief can central Illinois expect?

Joel Brunsvold, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said the Asian carp cannot be eradicated. At best, he said, state government can thin the population from Illinois waterways and create a market for the fish.

One idea is to build a plant, possibly in Beardstown, that would process Asian carp into food, fertilizer and other products, Brunsvold said.

"You're never going to get rid of all of them," he said, "but you can take the huge mass out of the river, so they don't force out the bass, the crappies and the bluegills."

Brunsvold said the fish won't swim back south after being stunned at the Romeoville barrier. Rather, they'll linger in that area and dwindle as their food supply disappears, he said.

Wednesday's elaborate news conference at the mouth of the Chicago River featured two young, frozen Asian carp specimens, each several feet long and weighing 30 pounds, that were shipped from Missouri and displayed on a table. The silvery, bug-eyed duo was scheduled to be sent to Cleveland, the site of a similar news conference today.

"When you get a couple of fish like these, you want to take them on the road," EPA spokesman Jeff Kelley quipped.

Congress recently increased funding for the Asian carp barrier from $5 million to $6.825 million, and the state of Illinois has pledged $1.7 million toward the $9.1 million project. Other Great Lakes states are expected to pick up the remainder of the tab. The entire defense system may be complete by April 2005.


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