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Great Lakes Article:


Barrier may not keep Asian carp out of lake
By Gary Wisby
Chicago Sun Times
Published December 26th, 2004

Building the $9.1 million barrier in southwest suburban Lemont to keep dreaded Asian carp out of Lake Michigan may not be enough, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says.

If the Des Plaines River floods, it says, the exotic, voracious fish could get into the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal upstream of the electric fence, and there would be nothing stopping the fish from getting into the Chicago River and then the lake.

The carp, which devour food needed by other fish, threaten the Great Lakes' $4.5 billion sport and commercial fishing industry.

Not focused on flooding

"We will need a flood wall or structure to build up the land there," said Chuck Shea, the Corps project manager.

How much that will cost and how long it will take won't be determined until studies show how changes would affect flooding elsewhere, Shea said.

"Right now we are focusing on finishing the permanent barrier," he said. "We're not actively working on the issue of flooding on the Des Plaines."

The Lemont barrier replaces a temporary one at Romeoville.

The Sun-Times called the Corps after being alerted to the problem by Eddie Landmichl, president of Perch America and a longtime environmental gadfly.

"It's opening the door if there's a flood," Landmichl said. Two more barriers are needed upstream of Lemont, he said -- one on the Chicago River at Ashland Avenue, the other at Cicero in Alsip on the Little Calumet River, which drains to the lake near Portage, Ind.

"Those areas don't flood," Landmichl said. Water in the channels would be easier to control because it's only 10 to 15 feet deep, compared with 25 feet deep in the canal.

Could reach lake by fall

Shea said Landmichl's solution would probably work but would be much more expensive than walling off the canal from river floodwater.

Landmichl scoffed. "You're talking 25 miles of land or more. It'll be cheaper to build the new barriers," he said.

A 1996 flood of the Des Plaines left 6 feet of water in Lemont. Some river water flowed into the canal, Shea said. But it probably wasn't enough to float Asian carp -- which weigh up to 100 pounds -- the 600 to 800 feet between the two waterways, he said.

The carp have been spotted 21 miles downstream of the barrier site. They travel about 40 miles a year, and one estimate has them in Lake Michigan by next fall.

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