Monster carp scare Chicago
By Mike Ramsey of Copley News Service
Published October 14th, 2004
CHICAGO - Chicago to the rest of Illinois: Keep your
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
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
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,
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
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.