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Keeping invasive fish species out of the Great Lakes will be expensive

Sep 15, 2017

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a public meeting in Muskegon last night on its $275.4 million plan to keep invasive fish species out of the Great Lakes.

A recent study found that electric barriers and complex noises, like the sound of boat motors, are the most effective ways to keep certain fish away. So the plan to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan includes both.

The plan also includes building an engineered channel, a concrete structure meant to guide fish away from the complex noises, and thus, away from the Great Lakes.

A live Asian carp made it past an existing electric barrier near Chicago back in June, so the system needs more defenses than it currently has. 

Mark Cornish is a biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He says the problem stretches beyond the Great Lakes.

“There are literally hundreds of species of [invasive fish] that touch everywhere from the Great Lake states to California. There's not a corner of the United States that invasive species haven't affected,” Cornish said.

Invasive, or so-called nuisance species, can devastate the existing ecology of a water system when they overpopulate an area. This is what Cornish says this plan is trying to prevent.

“The Great Lakes have so much of the world’s fresh water here, it’s hard to say what exactly a large number of Asian carp would do, but they would force out lots of the fish already living in the lakes,” he said.

But critics say the plan doesn't go far enough.

Drew Youngedyke, Communications Coordinator with the National Wildlife Federation, likes the plan, but believes it’s not being proactive enough.

“We're still going to need a two way solution that also prevents Great Lakes invasive species from going the other way,” Youngedyke said.

In other words, a way to prevent invasive species from getting from Lake Michigan into the Mississippi River system.

If the plan is fully funded by fall of 2020, construction of the barrier system would be finished by 2025, according to Project Manager Andrew Leichty.

You can read more about the tentative plan and the study that helped form it at www.glmris.anl.gov