Corps Releases Detailed Brandon Road Carp Plan

BY DAVID MURRAY

August 14, 2017


The Corps of Engineers has released its proposed preferred plan for carp control measures at Brandon Roads Lock and Dam on the Des Plaines River in Joliet, Ill. The report’s tentatively selected plan (TSP) uses a combination of structural and nonstructural measures including complex noise, an additional electric barrier, water jets, a flushing lock and an engineered channel area to strengthen the barrier against the migration of Asian carp.

The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) Brandon Road Draft Integrated Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement was released July 28.

Built between 1927 and 1933, the Brandon Road Lock and Dam has been identified as a possible crossing point for Asian carp and/or other potentially invasive species between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River system.

The report was originally scheduled to be released in February but was delayed for reasons never explained. A growing chorus of anti-carp activists and elected officials, including several members of Congress, had called for its release.

The Brandon Road alternatives it discusses had been discussed in somewhat less detail in a previous GLMRIS report released in 2015.

The Corps is accepting public comments on the new report until September 21. The GLMRIS Project website has a comment function at http://glmris.anl.gov.
‘Solution Looking For A Problem’

Lynn Muench, senior vice president-regional advocacy for The American Waterways Operators called the new report “a solution looking for a problem” and said it contained little that is new. She noted that the population of Asian carp has not moved further northward in 25 years.

According to a notice in the Federal Register, the study’s purpose “is to evaluate structural and nonstructural options and technologies near the Brandon Road Lock and Dam to prevent the upstream transfer of ANS [aquatic nuisance species]. [The Corps of Engineers] analyzed and evaluated available controls to address ANS of concern and formulated alternatives specifically for the Brandon Road site. [The Corps] also evaluated the potential impacts of the alternatives and ways to minimize such impacts.”

Dennis W. Hamilton, chief, Programs and Project Management Division at the Corps, conducted the GLMRIS-Brandon Road Study in consultation with other federal agencies, Native American tribes, state agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations and industry.

The report identifies six potential alternatives, including no new action (continuing current efforts); a “nonstructural” alternative involving overfishing, egg harvesting, pesticides and similar efforts; three technology alternatives using various combinations of an additional electric barrier and/or complex noise generators; and lock closure. All had already been discussed in less detail in an earlier 2015 report.

The effectiveness of each alternative was considered against three different possible modes of carp transport: swimming, floating, and hitchhiking.
The Corps said that selection of the TSP required careful evaluation of each alternative's:

1. reduction in the probability of establishment in the Great Lakes Basin;
2. life safety risk;
3. system performance robustness; and
4. costs, which include construction, mitigation, operation and maintenance, repair, replacement and rehabilitation, and navigation impacts. The evaluation also included careful consideration of cost effectiveness and incremental cost analyses; significance of the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem; and acceptability, completeness, efficiency and effectiveness.

The report also identifies potential adverse impacts that alternatives may have on existing uses and users of the waterways. AWO claims that it grossly underestimates cost impacts to industry.

Muench pointed out that GLMRIS is supposed to include a number of potentially harmful species, not just carp, but that seems to have been forgotten.

In a letter sent on October 15, 2016, to Kenneth Barr, chief of the Environmental Planning Branch of the Rock Island Engineer District, Muench wrote, “AWO members believe that the Corps is proceeding with Brandon Road Study without congressional authority and, further, that the installation of new electric barriers in a lock approach is unacceptable due to the serious safety issues.” Muench has said an additional electric barrier would require tow operators to reconfigure tows in new ways, slowing transit times.