A plan to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes is in hot water. Recent plans to protect the lakes is meeting opposition from both the Trump administration and some Great Lakes states, despite the support of environmentalists.
The $275 million Brandon Road Lock and Dam plan will use a series of barriers, noisemakers, and water jets to keep the invasive species at bay.
The Army Corps of Engineers released a draft of the plan last year after an initial delay from the Trump administration. The plan aims to block the carp’s path to lake Michigan. The great lakes are North America’s largest freshwater system and Asian carp are a serious threat to Great Lakes ecosystems. These fish were introduced to American waterways in the 1960’s to help clear algae from ponds. Since then, they have spread to lakes and rivers across the United States, including the Little Calumet River in Illinois, less than 10 miles from Lake Michigan.
Researchers have collected an array of weapons to use in the battle for the Great Lakes. It is unlikely that any of these devices will be a panacea for the carp problem, but proponents hope they will ameliorate a situation that risks destroying the $7 billion Great Lakes fishing industry.
One instrument included in the plan targets a weakness scientists discovered in the ears of carp. A connection between a carp’s swim bladders and ears makes high-frequency noises intolerable to the fish. The plan seeks to install speakers that would play the sound of a 100-horsepower motorboat revving its engine, underwater. The speakers create an acoustic barrier that tests show has been successful in driving carp away.
Another idea is to use a pisicide, a poison for fish, to combat the carp invasion. Carp eat microscopic plankton, which native fish don’t. Researchers created a method to poison carp by putting the pisicide Antimycin in plankton-sized particles that carp will eat. Trials have shown pisicides to be effective.
Other potential options include upgrading the already present electric fences or using a carbon dioxide barrier to keep carp out. Electric fences have been successful at keeping big carp out, but have proven to be an ineffective method to keep small carp out. The adult silver carp found in Little Calumet River managed to get around the electric fences. Carbon dioxide barriers are created by infusing sections of water with carbon dioxide, forcing carp to move to waters with higher oxygen levels. However, carbon dioxide barriers keep out native fish and invasive species alike, and critics are concerned they will stress the native population.
Researchers are also devising ways to fish and use Asian carp. The invasive species can be incorporated into cat food or turned into liquid fertilizer. Asian carp are in high demand in Asia where they are considered a delicacy. In their native region, pollution has decimated Asian carp populations. “There are more Asian carp in Illinois than in China, “said Dan Stephenson, chief of Fisheries at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Michigan governor Rick Snyder formed an interstate coalition to divide future expenses for the plan. Great Lakes states Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania, and the Canadian province of Quebec have not yet joined the partnership. However, the nonmember states control less than 10% of the Great Lakes.
Illinois is outright opposing the plan on the basis that it could hurt the shipping industry. The system will be located near Chicago, and Illinois officials are concerned it will cause disorder on Illinois waterways. David St. Pierre, executive director of the Chicago water district, has said he will not ask the district’s board to back the decision to install the Brandon Road system unless they modify the plan to satisfy Illinois.
Advocates of the plan say Asian carp could wreck the $7 billion fishing industry in the Great Lakes. Proponents argue that the carp have gotten around the electric fences, the last barrier between the carp and Lake Michigan. “To have these carp come into these lakes would be devastating,” said Snyder “There’s been too much talk and not enough action”.
This sentiment was shared by the 26 lawmakers from the Great Lakes states that are asking the heads of the federal House of Representatives to adjust next year’s federal budget to pick up the pace. The lawmakers want the engineers to complete the final draft of the plan by February of 2019, 3 years earlier than planned. The Army Corps of Engineers is currently revising the draft plan to incorporate feedback and information from new studies.
[Sources: Chicago Tribune; Associated Press]