Agreement means work to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes will move forward

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MICHIGAN – An agreement reached by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) with the State of Illinois is being hailed as a major step in keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

“It’s another major step towards keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes,” stated Marc Gaden, communications director with the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission (GLFC) when contacted by the Recorder earlier this week. “Now USACE can move forward with the planning project design for what they have been proposing. This is the first step towards construction and required a non-federal agency to be a (funding partner); in this case, Illinois.”

“It’s very exciting,” said Mr. Gaden. “Now they can move forward on the preconstruction, engineering and design work. The project is moving ahead.” 

USACE has signed an agreement with the State of Illinois to begin early work on an $858 million project to prevent the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes, reported Wisconsin Public Radio on Thursday, January 7. 

The invasive fish was first introduced in the southern United States in the early 1960s and 1970s, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Asian carp threatens the $7 billion fishing industry and $16 billion recreation boating industry on the Great Lakes. The invasive fish threatens native fish species because they can consume almost half of their body weight in food each day. Signs of the fish have been found just miles from Lake Michigan. 

USACE and Illinois signed a preconstruction, engineering and design agreement on December 29 as part of work to install additional defences to keep the invasive species from getting past a crucial choke point in Joliet, Illinois. The plan recommended by USACE in 2019 calls for additional defences like noisemakers, a bubble curtain and an electric barrier, according to Wisconsin public radio. 

“We’re going to roll up our sleeves and we’re gonna work hand in hand with our partners, and with our stakeholders across the country who have an interest in protecting the Great Lakes while maintaining efficient navigation on the Illinois waterway,” Col. Steven Sattinger, the Corps’ Rock Island District Commander told Wisconsin radio.

Under the agreement, Illinois is required to pay for 35 percent of engineering and design costs, but, Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker had previously made it clear that Illinois couldn’t fund the project on its own.

As has been previously reported, the State of Michigan signed an intergovernmental agreement with Illinois on December 24 to provide $8 million for that initial work. Illinois contributed the remaining $2.5 million needed to fulfill its funding share.

Dan Eichinger, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said missing the opportunity to reach an agreement with Illinois would have set the project “all they way back to zero.”

The agreement between USACE and Illinois is a significant step forward, according to Steve Galarneau, director of the Office of Great Waters with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“We’re extremely excited in Wisconsin to see this move forward. We’ve been in partnership with the other Great Lakes states,” Mr. Galarneau told Wisconsin public radio. “Obviously, Michigan, Illinois, the two there (are) doing the heavy lifting here and making this happen, but the other Great Lakes states have been meeting alongside with them on a regular basis for a number of years now. So, it’s exciting to get to this stage.”

Mr. Gaden noted that with Illinois taking the action it has, “there is nothing stopping this project from going forward. It is expected this phase of the project—preconstruction, engineering and design work—will take about three-four years to complete.”