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Lawmakers want Asian carp study within a year

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Lawmakers in Congress want to set a deadline a year from now for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finish a study on how to upgrade a waterway choke point near Lake Michigan to deter Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

A bipartisan group of 26 House members, including 11 Michigan lawmakers, last week wrote to House Appropriations Committee leaders asking them to include in any final spending agreement language ordering the Army Corps to complete its report on the Brandon Road Lock and Dam by February 2019.

That date was the Army Corps’ original deadline for completing the Chief of Engineers report when the Army Corps started the study in 2015.

Lawmakers have argued for months that the process is taking too long, and further delays increase the risk that the destructive invasive species will reach the freshwater lakes.

“Nearly $400 million has already been spent in efforts to stop the Asian carp migration, including the construction of three electric barriers to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan,” the members wrote.

“These barriers are a temporary obstacle, however, and are only partially effective.”

The letter was spearheaded by Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, and Bradley Schneider, D-Illinois, and signed by 10 other Michigan members. Huizenga said “at a minimum,” the Corps should meet its stated deadline of February 2019.

“Given the gravity of the situation, I hope the Corps will present its findings even sooner than anticipated,” said Huizenga, who co-chairs the Great Lakes Task Force.

“It is widely accepted that if Asian carp are able to enter the Great Lakes, it will be nearly impossible to repair the damage done to the ecosystem as well as the economy.”

One of the recipients of the letter, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, said she would ensure it receives the attention on the Appropriations Committee. Kaptur co-chairs the Great Lakes Task Force.

A draft report released in August estimated that upgrades at Brandon Road could cost $275 million and take until at least 2025 to complete, if authorized by Congress.

The draft described tentative measures including installing a new electric barrier to repel or stun the destructive fish and underwater speakers generating “complex noise” to deter them from swimming beyond the lock and dam near Joliet, Illinois, a choke point between the Illinois River and Lake Michigan.

The recommended plan also called for construction of a specially engineered channel fitted with water-propulsion jets and a flushing lock to sweep out small fish and floating organisms such as larvae and eggs.

Asian carp, introduced in the United States in the 1970s, have infested the ecosystems of the Mississippi River, decimating native species.

The capture of an adult silver carp in a Chicago waterway near Lake Michigan last year caused alarm because it had eluded the network of electric barriers designed to stop the fishes’ northward progression.

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