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Great Lakes Article:

Corps of Engineers vs. carp: The fight for the Great Lakes
By John C. Kuehner
Plain Dealer News
Published May 13, 2004

 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is finishing plans to build a $6.7 million electric fence in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to stop the hungry, bottom-feeding fish from entering Lake Michigan.

If Asian carp crossed into the Great Lakes, they would pose a greater threat to Lake Erie than any of the other invasive species so far because they could devastate the perch and walleye fish populations, said Jeff Reutter, an aquatic nuisance species expert with the Ohio Sea Grant program. "The result would be fewer perch and walleye in the lake," Reutter said. "The dominant species would be the carp."

Asian carp eat up to 40 percent of their body weight daily, grow up to 100 pounds and have no natural predators. They are working their way up the Mississippi River, where they have displaced other fish and now represent more than five out of every 10 fish in the river.

Officials from the federal level on down want to contain the fish so it does not cross into the Great Lakes through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the only direct link between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. The carp escaped from fish farms during floods.

The new fence would be a permanent barrier and would reinforce a smaller demonstration fence built two years ago, said Charles Shea, the corps' project manager who was a guest speaker at a three-day Great Lakes conference in Cleveland this week. The existing barrier is wearing out. Its cables are corroding and one has failed, Shea said. It was designed to last three to five years.

Planning is to finish this month and construction will start in June, he said. The goal is to have the project done by late September.

Workers will secure up to 50 steel rails to the bottom of the channel.

Electricity will run through the rails. Like an invisible fence for dogs, it is designed to make fish feel uncomfortable with an unpleasant tingle that grows stronger as they swim up the channel. The intensity will induce fish to turn around. The current, however, will be safe for human contact.

The corps will put $5 million toward the project and the state of Illinois will put in $1.7 million.

The project was made a No. 1 priority for the corps earlier this year after senators and representatives from the Great Lakes states learned the agency planned to delay the project for another year because of a lack of money.

The corps found the money in its budget.

The new barrier will have two separate sets of rails so if power is lost to one set, the other set will remain electrified. Each barrier will have a separate power source as well as backup power in case of a blackout.

 

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