Noise, more electric barriers proposed to stop Asian carp in Great Lakes region

Detroit Free Press

Aug. 04–WASHINGTON — A long-awaited report held up by the Trump administration and set to be released Monday will tentatively recommend using noise, more electric barriers, water jets and other means to stop the spread of Asian carp in the Great Lakes region.

While the so-called Brandon Road Report itself will not be released until Monday, a copy of the notice of its release and call for public comment was posted on the Federal Register’s public inspection website today and includes details about the report.

The report identifies six potential alternatives for slowing the spread of invasive species of Asian carp at a key choke-point at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam along the Des Plaines River in Joliet, Ill., the notice says. The “Tentatively Selected Plan” is for using nonstructural measures including water jets, complex noise, electric barriers and more.

The release of the report will set off a 45-day comment period before the Army Corps of Engineers moves to finalize a plan for addressing the spread of Asian carp. Since the noise/electric barrier option is tentative, the final selection could potentially change.

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Late last week, the Army Corps announced that it would release the Brandon Road Report on Monday, months after it first had been expected to be released. As the Free Press first reported, the report had been expected to be released to the public Feb. 28 but was held up at the last minute, reportedly by the White House.

It was never made clear what led to the hold-up but some environmentalists worried that the report might be somehow altered. If the report as expected calls for additional electric barriers, noise barriers, water jets as well as special flushing mechanisms and a channel engineered to stop the fish, it could potentially assuage those concerns.

There have been strong indications from field studies done in recent years by the University of Minnesota Duluth and the U.S. Geological Survey that complex noise — which could sound like so-called “white” noise to a human — can be successful in largely stopping the spread of invasive species known as Asian carp.

Electric barriers have also been shown to be effective though they have come under fire lately. Already there are several electric barriers in operation near Chicago some 37 miles from Lake Michigan. But studies have shown that some smaller fish can be pulled through the barriers along with barges passing through them.

Related:

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This summer, a live 8-pound, 28-inch-long silver carp — one of the species known as Asian carp — was found beyond the barriers, though intensive fishing and sampling found no others. Only two live fish have been found past the barriers since 2010.

Concerns is high that if Asian carp reach Lake Michigan and, from there, spread through the Great Lakes, their voracious feeding habits could decimate local habitat and destroy native fish populations. Asian carp are already established in the Mississippi River.

Environmentalists and local and state officials, as well as U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both D-Mich., and other members of Congress from Michigan and across the upper Midwest, have been calling for the study to be done for years.

With news of the impending release last week, U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, who had been pushing for the White House to make the study available, said it would provide “critical information” on how to stop Asian carp before they reached the Lakes.

“The Army Corps’ Brandon Road report draft is long overdue,” U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, added last week. “The taxpayers paid for this report and it will help us understand the best way to stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.”

Public comments on the Tentatively Selected Plan, as well as the other options — which include making no changes — can be made beginning Monday at http://glmris.anl.gov and the report will be available at that site as well. Public meetings on the report are set to be scheduled also.

According to the Federal Register notice, which also won’t appear until Monday, the Army Corps made its tentative recommendation at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam based on its likely impact on stopping Asian carp from spreading as well as costs. The notice did not detail what those costs may be, however.

While the other options weren’t detailed in the Federal Register public inspection notice, at least one appeared to include closing the lock as well.

Contact Todd Spangler at 703-854-8947 or at tspangler@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tsspangler.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Waterways Council, Inc.