New plan to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes

January 31, 2012 3:34:45 PM PST
A new report highlights a possible method to keep Asian carp from infiltrating the Great Lakes and the waterways that flow to and from them.

The $4 billion plan proposed by the Great Lakes Commission would physically separate the Mississippi and Chicago waterways.

"This is the one that most closely approximates what the natural divide was before the waterway system was constructed," said David Ullrich, Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

The commission finds the option with the least disruptions to the environment and industry would include four permanent barriers across the waterways and would be a permanent separation.

"The key to all of this is to prevent it, to stop them before they get in. That's why these physical separation barriers are so important," said Ullrich.

The section of the Chicago River just east of Ashland is known as Bubbly Creek. It got the name from decomposing remains from the old Chicago stock yards. The creek could be one of the points to permanently prevent Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes.

Asian carp are known for their acrobatics and ferocious appetites, which wipe out other fish. Carp have been found coming north through the Mississippi River.

"They out compete native fish, and once the system breaking down, the fish that everyone wants to catch and eat, whether it's commercial fishery or tourist, they can't find them anymore," said Leslee Spraggins of the Nature Conservancy.

An electronic barrier is supposed to keep the carp from travelling through the Chicago waterway system into the Great lakes. But carp have been found 20 miles south of the barrier.

The commission hopes the report will urge action before carp get into Lake Michigan.

"We are already spending tens of millions of dollars to control and manage Asian carp, and that's just one invasive species," said Tim Eder, Great Lakes Commission. "Those problems are only get more expensive the longer we wait."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also studying the issue. The Corps will meet with the commission to review findings. Commission members hope to get congressional support and they will need the support of Governor Pat Quinn.