Michigan delegation plans trip to Illinois to focus on Asian carp threat
Bipartisan members of Michigan's congressional delegation are planning a trip to Illinois this summer to the site of a future waterway project where officials hope to stop the progress of Asian carp toward the Great Lakes.
Delegation leaders announced the July 1 trip Wednesday during the Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island, saying they will visit the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, which has been identified as a "one-way choke point" to halt the spread of the invasive species.
The trip comes on the heels of last week's approval by the Army Corps of Engineers of a long-awaited federal plan aimed at keeping Asian carp out of the freshwater lakes, despite elected officials' concern about the project's $778 million price tag.
"It's taken, frankly, a long time to be able to get the Army Corps to focus to be able to look at which is the point where we can address this in a permanent way without stopping commerce up and down the rivers," said Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who co-chairs the Senate Great Lakes Task Force.
"We're going to be doing everything we can now that we have this report to get the funding as soon as possible to be able to move forward."
Rep. Fred Upton, the delegation's senior Republican, echoed Stabenow's commitment to ensuring the funding is available to stop this "menace," referring to the Asian carp.
"I look forward to this (congressional delegation) to go look specifically at what the Corps of Engineers is doing, to gather members from both sides of the aisle, from multiple states — perhaps both governors, as well — to show we are enlisted in trying to stop this from happening," Upton said.
Stabenow said the lawmakers at Brandon Road will be briefed on the plans for the project at Brandon Road and take a look at electric fencing already in place there.
The Army Corps has proposed installing devices at Brandon Road such as an electric barrier, noisemakers and an air bubble curtain in a specially designed channel to deter fish from swimming upstream and remove those that don’t turn back.
An updated version of the plan released in November put the project cost at $778 million, which was significantly higher than an earlier $275 million estimate.
Additional operations and maintenance costs are estimated at $7.7 million annually, including a share of $1.5 million for the non-federal sponsor, Illinois.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has balked at the project's cost and said he wants to look at cost sharing among the Great Lakes states.