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Michigan, Illinois announce bid to use federal aid to fight Asian carp

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday joined Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to announce an agreement that will use millions of federal dollars to bolster a lock and dam system to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will team up for the neighboring state to spend up to $8 million appropriated in 2018 by the Michigan Legislature "to support the pre-construction engineering and design phase of the Brandon Road Ecosystem Project," according to a news release by the Illinois and Michigan agencies.

The Brandon Road Lock and Dam in the Chicago Area Waterway System near Joliet in the Chicago suburbs is used as a blocking point to keep invasive bighead, silver and black carp out of Lake Michigan and other lakes.

The Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois.

The project would "install layered technologies including an electric barrier, underwater sound, an air bubble curtain and a flushing lock in a newly engineered channel" made to keep the invasive carp from advancing and yet allow barges to pass, according to the release. 

Whitmer said "preventing invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes was a Day One priority for my administration."

"We know it’s been a priority for a lot of others, but we needed to take action, and that’s what today’s action represents," the Michigan governor said in a statement. "The Great Lakes support 1.3 million jobs, including over 350,000 jobs right here in Michigan."

Pritzker also lauded the new effort and partnership in a statement, calling the Great Lakes a "priceless natural resource."

"Protecting the lakes is a top priority for my administration, which is why I included funding for Asian carp mitigation efforts in my bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital plan," he said.

An electric barrier has been installed in the waterway near Romeoville, Illinois, since 2002 to keep the carp out of the lakes and has since been supplemented by two other electric barriers in the same area. A fourth more powerful barrier at the Romeoville site is expected to be operating this year, officials said.

Officials from both states said it could take three to four years to complete the initial Brandon Road design once federal funding is received by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Then there will be a negotiation of a project partnership agreement with Illinois with backing from the other states around the lakes and Canadian provinces for the initial construction effort.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, the co-chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force, called the announcement a "significant step forward in the effort to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp.

"Illinois and Michigan have stepped up to provide the financial resources required to support this phase of the Brandon Road Project," said Huizenga, R-Holland, in a statement. "Congress has appropriated funding in the FY 2021 appropriations bill for projects, such as Brandon Road, which are in the pre-construction, engineering, and design phase. It is critical that funding be included in the 2021 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work plan to protect the Great Lakes and begin the pre-construction, engineering, and design phase at Brandon Road."

lfleming@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2620

Twitter:@leonardnfleming