Asian carp

Illinois Wants Further Negotiation On Brandon Road Project

Illinois is willing to work with the Corps of Engineers on the Brandon Road Lock and Dam Asian carp control project—but it wants to keep talking about the best ways to implement it, including possible further modifications and funding options.

That was the essence of a May 4 letter sent by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office to the Corps of Engineers. The letter said that while Illinois is willing to act “as the sole legal and appropriate non-federal sponsor” for the Corps of Engineers’ proposed project, it wants further negotiation with Great Lakes states over the proper scope and scientific justification of the project.

The Corps’ $275 million Brandon Road plan, released as its “tentatively selected plan” in August 2017 and favored by other Great Lakes states, would combine an electric barrier, complex noise, water jets and other features to create an additional barrier in blocking the carp from continuing upstream to Lake Michigan. The barge industry strongly opposes the plan.

Illinois has been at odds with other Great Lakes states over how best to manage and control the threat of Asian carp. Illinois’ reservations about the Brandon Road plan, which it has said will have a disproportionate impact on Chicago commerce and costs too much, have been articulated by Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, who under Illinois’ constitution is responsible for waterway issues.

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But Illinois’ participation is essential. On May 4, the same date that Rauner’s letter was sent, the Corp’s Mississippi Valley Division sent letters signed by Maj. Gen. Richard Kaiser, to the city of Chicago and several Great Lakes states and a Canadian province explaining why they could not be “non-federal sponsors” of the Brandon Road project.

While acknowledging that “aquatic nuisance abatement is a shared concern that requires aggressive and innovative measures across a wide jurisdictional battleground,” U.S. law, with its principles of federalism and states’ rights, requires that Illinois be the non-federal sponsor. “It is my professional assessment that without the State of Illinois’ participating, the current coalition cannot satisfy the requirements of non-federal sponsorship,” the letter said.

Rauner’s letter to Col. Craig Baumgartner, commander of the Rock Island Engineer District, said the state understands that being a non-federal sponsor requires a cost share of 35 percent, along with provision of land, easements, rights of way, relocations and disposal sites.

Rauner’s letter said Illinois would begin efforts to fund its share by entering into an intergovernmental agreement with other agencies including the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to apply credits for its work on the Chicagoland Underflow plan.

But the letter said the state “plans to continue to work with the Corps to review and better understand the underlying scientific justification to support a project of this size, scope and cost.” It will also continue efforts in Congress to secure more federal funding for the project.

The letter said it will seek an “Illinois-supported” Final Report by July 31 of this year.