Barrier may not keep Asian carp out
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
Not focused on flooding
"We will need a flood wall or structure to build
up the land there," said Chuck Shea, the Corps project
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,"
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.