targets voracious Asian carp
Chicago Suburban Newspapers
a long-term method of preventing an invasive species of
Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan and wreaking havoc
on the lake's ecosystem is high on the agenda of various
environmental groups and legislators, but Romeoville now
finds itself the focal point of short-term efforts to
choke off the breed's migration.
U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, R-13th District, of Hinsdale,
met with representatives of various environmental and
governmental agencies on Nov. 26 in Romeoville, to discuss
the need for a second electronic barrier in the Chicago
Sanitary & Ship Canal at about 135th Street near Romeoville.
``Make no mistake about it. Romeoville is in the front
line of an international struggle to halt the Asian carp's
advance into the Great Lakes,'' said Biggert, who called
the carp a ``little terrorist.''
Recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the
Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. State Department
joined the International Joint Commission and the Great
Lakes Fisheries Commission to pledge $300,000 in
emergency funds to purchase a backup generator for the
The low-voltage electronic barrier -- a temporary solution
to the problem, officials say -- currently is the only
barrier preventing the carp from making its way into Lake
A second barrier, estimated to cost $7 million, is
needed to guarantee a backup system in case the existing
barrier fails, officials say.
But if weather conditions force a power outage, the barrier
would be ineffective and could open the gates to disaster.
``With the winter coming on, and the potential of ice
storms, we need to ensure the barrier is intact and functioning
in case of power outages,'' Biggert said.
About a dozen representatives met in Romeoville Village
Hall for a presentation and roundtable discussion outlining
the gradual advance of the carp, which experts say can
eradicate vegetation and disrupt the food chain within
the Great Lakes if left unchecked.
If the fish gain access to the Great Lakes, the cool lake
waters could provide a stable breeding ground, and result
in another devastating blow to commercial fishing in the
area, and perhaps recreation, officials say.
``Obtaining funding in 2003 is critical to proceeding
with a plan to halt the carp,'' said Marc Gaden, a spokesman
for the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission.
``We need to hitch it to the legislation vehicle next
year that will get it done quickly and at full federal
cost,'' he said.
Officials have feared the potential effects of the fish
since they were introduced in Arkansas by the Agriculture
Department in the 1980s as a suitable method for catfish
farmers to cleanse breeding ponds.
The fish, which can grow to between 50 and 150 pounds
and can consume up to 40 percent of its own body weight
each day, eventually made its way into the Upper Mississippi
River system in the early 1990s.
The species has made its way into the canal, which connects
the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes via Lake Michigan.
The canal, once considered a ``killing zone'' that required
intensive efforts to clean it and make it viable, now
can support aquatic life.
``Our efforts to clean it up made it a corridor between
those two watersheds. In a way we are victims of our own
success over the last three decades,'' said Dennis Schornak,
chairman of the International Joint Commission, United
The current barrier emits full-depth voltage that increases
the further upstream a fish swims. It is not fatal to
humans, but repels fish. If funding is obtained and the
plan approved, a second electronic barrier would be established
within 100 meters of the existing barrier, officials say.
The barriers are expected to last about 3 years before
losing their effectiveness.
According to Gaden, although some Asian carp have been
discovered in Lake Erie, ``there is no evidence at this
time that they are spawning in the Great Lakes.''
Biggert said attention should be given to other entry
points into the Great Lakes.
``We are looking at the side door to the Great Lakes,
but we also need to look at the front door also,'' said
Biggert, who said her father's commercial fishing business
in Ludington, Mich., was ruined by the onset of lamprey
eels in the 1940s.
``If this voracious fish reaches Lake Michigan and multiplies,
it could devastate the ecosystem of the Great Lakes on
a grand scale and endanger the multibillion-dollar fishing
industry,'' Biggert said.
Biggert said she has made a request for an additional
$500,000 in federal funding from the Energy and Water
Appropriations Subcommittee, but officials won't know
until January if funds will be available.