Critics hit Army Corps’ 8-year wait in Asian carp fight
Muskegon — Critics bemoaned the eight-year time line that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday that it would take to implement its plan to keep the invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
Army Corps officials said the $275 million proposed project, which includes building a series of barriers and other moves, could take eight years to finish by 2025. But elected and appointed Michigan officials as well as others said at the meeting here that the discovery of an Asian carp near Lake Michigan makes the situation more urgent.
In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found a live Asian carp near Lake Michigan well beyond a network of electric barriers 37 miles southwest of Chicago. A follow-up survey found no other invasive carp.
“We must take action now because failing to do so could jeopardize one of our nation’s greatest natural resources,” U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, wrote in a letter to the Army Corps that a staffer read at the Muskegon meeting.
Angela Ayers, who works in Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s executive office, also told Army Corps officials that “the time to act is now.”
Jon Allan with the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes added that the long-term solution should be separating the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River basin, where the Asian carp first appeared.
Col. Craig Baumgartner with the Army Corps of Engineers said it’s possible construction could be complete before 2025 but would not speculate on the soonest possible date.
“It’s really hard for me to say,” Baumgartner said.
The hearing comes after Snyder and environmental groups demanded immediate action when the Trump administration in early August released the long-awaited report. The plan laid out tentative measures that include installing a new electric barrier to repel or stun the destructive fish and underwater speakers generating “complex noise” to deter them from traveling beyond the lock and dam at Brandon Road near Joliet, Illinois.
“Keeping the population low at our control points is key because we need a layered defense – there’s no one measure here that’s gonna work by itself,” said Andrew Leichty, project manager for the Army Corps at the Brandon Road dam.
The Army Corps report stopped short of recommending closure of the Brandon Road lock, citing the potential economic impact on the barge and shipping industry.
The agency is collecting public comments until Nov. 16 after extending the comment period. Then it will conduct a feasibility study, followed by reviews by federal and state agencies and a Chief of Engineers report due in August 2019.
If authorized and funded by Congress, the project is expected to take about four years to build with an expected 2025 completion date.
The Brandon Road study was undertaken two years ago, costing an estimated $8 million.