The Coronavirus isn’t the only thing from China that Governor Gretchen Whitmer is fighting against.   Whitmer and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker have reached an intergovernmental agreement to try and keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes.

Asian Carp is really the name for four different species of non-native fish.   There are black carp, grass carp, bighead carp, and silver carp.  They were brought into the U.S. to clean up pond scum in Arkansas more than 50 years ago.  But they made their way into the Mississippi River system in the 1980s and have been threatening to get into the Great Lakes.    Asian carp are fast-growing and prolific feeders that out-compete native fish and leave a trail of environmental destruction in their wake.  The bighead carp can grow to 2 to 5 feet in length.  The silver carp get just as big, and entire schools of these 110 lb monsters fly out of the water at once.

It is predicted that the arrival of live bighead, silver, or black carp in the Great Lakes could have drastic effects on the region’s $7 billion fishery, $16 billion boating industry, and other tourism-based industries, property owners, recreationists, and others dependent on the Great Lakes and its tributaries.

The new project allows Illinois to use up to $8 million in funds appropriated in 2018 by the Michigan Legislature to support the pre-construction engineering and design (PED) phase of the Brandon Road Ecosystem Project.

The State of Illinois also signed a separate PED agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the initial Brandon Road design. The state will serve as the non-federal sponsor, agreeing to help fund the design of a portion of the project and to further advance full project design efforts to approximately 30 percent completion.

The Brandon Road Lock and Dam in the Chicago Area Waterway System near Joliet, Illinois, is a critical pinch point for keeping bighead, silver, and black carp – the invasive Asian carp species of greatest concern – out of the Great Lakes. The Brandon Road project would install layered technologies including an electric barrier, underwater sound, an air bubble curtain, and a flushing lock in a newly engineered channel designed to prevent invasive carp movement while allowing barge passage.

"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,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “The Great Lakes support 1.3 million jobs, including over 350,000 jobs right here in Michigan. That’s why after decades of work, today Michigan, along with the State of Illinois and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has taken a historic step towards protecting the Great Lakes from Asian carp. I am determined to continue to use every tool at my disposal to keep harmful invasive species from damaging the Great Lakes ecology and our economy.”

An electric dispersal barrier installed in the waterway near Romeoville, Illinois in 2002 to prevent invasive species from moving into and out of the Great Lakes has since been supplemented by two additional electric barriers in the same location.  A fourth more powerful barrier at the Romeoville site is expected to be operational in 2021.

Once federal funding is secured through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Work Plan, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers anticipates a three to a four-year timeframe for completing the initial Brandon Road design before negotiating a Project Partnership Agreement with the State of Illinois (supported by other Great Lakes States and Provinces) for the initial construction effort and the remainder of project design to reduce the possibility of invasive carp migration into Lake Michigan.

As the Brandon Road project moves forward, current efforts will continue, including the electric barriers near Romeoville and expanded nonstructural measures, including focused commercial fishing, monitoring, and prescribed netting to reduce the risk of spawning or small fish movement through the existing lock and dam.

More information on the Brandon Road Ecosystem Project can be found online here.

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