Illinois Officials Oppose Plan to Block Asian Carp from the Great Lakes
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Illinois Officials Oppose Plan to Block Asian Carp from the Great Lakes

Republicans Say Army Corps Killing Zone Costs Too Much and Will Hurt the Economy, Environment

Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti

Climate change isn’t real science according to some Republicans. Now apparently efforts to keep Asian carp out of our nation’s Great Lakes aren’t real science either.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti played the fake science card Monday in opposing recommendations from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to try to halt Asian carp at a lock and dam on the Des Plaines River near Joliet, Ill.

The best way would be closing the lock, but the barge industry and Illinois’ Republican establishment don’t like that. Recommendations from the Corps include lining the river channel near the dam with concrete to make a possible killing zone where carp can’t hide and using an electric barrier, noise and a flushing lock.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service map.

The price tag, if there are no delays, is $275 million. The Corps would pay 65%. The rest would be paid by an unidentified nonfederal sponsor, perhaps Illinois.

Sanguinetti said the barrier is “neither cost effective nor environmentally sound.”

“Illinois will continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers and stakeholders in support of a science-based strategy that not only keeps Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, but also protects our taxpayers, our economy and our ecosystems,” Sanguinetti said.

Action Box / What You Can Do About It

Comment online or mail in comments. Comments can be mailed to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District, 231 S. LaSalle St. Suite 1500, ATTN: GLMRIS – Brandon Road Comments, Chicago IL 60604.

Write Doug Lamont, the acting assistant Army secretary for civil works at 108 Army Pentagon, Washington, DC 20310-0108.

Contact your senators or representative.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center can be reached at 312-673-6500 or ELPCinfo@ELPC.org.

Sanguinetti and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner are opposing plans for work at the Joliet dam as a federal initiative spends millions annually to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes and states such as Ohio and Indiana look at closing off other paths to the Great Lakes.

If Asian carp do get in the Great Lakes, which contain a fifth of the world’s fresh water, they would eat the food that native fish such as lake trout depend on. One study predicted Asian carp could make up as much as a third of the weight of Lake Erie’s fish if they become established. Silver carp, one Asian species, can get as large as 110 pounds, though the average size is around 30 to 40 pounds.

A bighead carp caught by a U.S. Geological Survey scientist (USGS photo).

So many Asian carp are in the Illinois River that the village of Bath., Ill., holds the Redneck Fishing Tournament each summer to see who can catch the most Asian carp in two hours. The fish leap out of the water at the sound of a boat’s motor. The winner one year caught 481 fish.

Howard Learner, the president of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago, said the Corps report makes it clear that it’s time for serious preventive action.

“The ecological and economic costs of further delays are not sensible or acceptable,” Learner said.

In Indiana, south of Fort Wayne, a $4.4 million earthen berm was built at Eagle Marsh to block Asian carp. Ohio is looking at closing off a major canal that runs into Lake Erie.

The  Corps draft report was supposed to be released in February, but the Trump administration sat on it at the behest of a cabal of 16 Republican U.S. House members, mostly from Illinois and Indiana. The report wasn’t released until the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee intervened.

The Corps is accepting comments on the report and its recommendations until Sept. 21. More reviews and Congressional approval would be required to start construction.

Featured Photo: Silver carp are known for their leaping ability, especially when excited by boats (U.S. Geological Survey photo).

August 8, 2017