Asian carp

Illinois, Michigan Sign Carp Barrier Funding Agreement

The governors of Illinois and Michigan have agreed to work jointly to move forward with installing technology at Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the Illinois River to help prevent the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.

The technology will include an electronic barrier as well as underwater sounds, an air bubble curtain and a flushing lock in a newly engineered channel designed to prevent the invasive carp from moving while allowing barge passage, according to the office of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Pritzker and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced on January 7 the signing of an intergovernmental agreement between the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) that will allow Illinois to use up to $8 million in funds appropriated in 2018 by the Michigan legislature to support pre-construction engineering and design of the Brandon Road Ecosystem Project.

Separately, the state of Illinois also signed an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the initial design at Brandon Road Lock and Dam. The state will serve as the non-federal sponsor on the project, agreeing to help fund design of a portion of it and to further advance full project design efforts to roughly 30 percent completion.

Pritzker’s office called the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, part of the Chicago Area Waterway System near Joliet, Ill., a critical pinch point for keeping bighead, silver and black carp—three invasive Asian carp species of greatest concern—out of the Great Lakes.

“The Great Lakes are a priceless natural resource that support the livelihoods of thousands of Illinoisans and attract visitors from across the globe,” Pritzker said. “Protecting the lakes is a top priority for my administration, which is why I included funding for Asian Carp mitigation efforts in my bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital plan. I am pleased to announce this new partnership with the state of Michigan, which, along with additional support from the federal government, will allow the construction of protective measures to begin at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam.”

Whitmer echoed the importance of the project for the people of Michigan.

“Preventing invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes was a day one priority for my administration,” she said. “We know it’s been a priority for a lot of others, but we needed to take action, and that’s what today’s action represents. The Great Lakes support 1.3 million jobs, including over 350,000 jobs right here in Michigan. That’s why after decades of work, today Michigan, along with the state of Illinois and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has taken a historic step toward protecting the Great Lakes from Asian carp. I am determined to continue to use every tool at my disposal to keep harmful invasive species from damaging the Great Lakes ecology and our economy.”

The agreement between Illinois and Michigan was finalized December 24, and the Corps of Engineers agreement on December 29. The Corps agreement stipulates that Illinois cover 35 percent of certain design costs, called PED costs. With Michigan’s $8 million financial commitment through the intergovernmental agreement, IDNR will contribute the remaining $2.5 million to complete the project.

“Long in planning, we’re pleased to finally put these agreements into action, allowing us to move the project to its next steps—planning and design—and, ultimately, construction,” IDNR Director Colleen Callahan said. “While the process is still in its early stages, we›re pleased to be a part of this partnership and look forward to sharing updates with other Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces throughout the design process.”

MDNR Director Dan Eichinger called the agreement “the natural progression of our existing partnership as we take steps toward a more permanent solution to prevent this serious threat to the economy and ecology of the Great Lakes.”

The arrival of live bighead, silver or black carp in the Great Lakes could have drastic effects on the region’s $7 billion fishery, $16 billion boating industry and other tourism-based industries, property owners, and others dependent on the Great Lakes and its tributaries, according to the governor’s office.

An electric dispersal barrier installed in the waterway near Romeoville, Ill., in 2002 to prevent invasive species from moving into and out of the Great Lakes has since been supplemented by two additional electric barriers in the same location.  A fourth, more powerful, barrier at the Romeoville site is expected to be operational later this year.

Once federal funding is secured through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Work Plan, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers anticipates it will take three years to complete the design at Brandon Road Lock and Dam before negotiating a project partnership agreement with the State of Illinois (supported by other Great Lakes states and provinces) for the initial construction effort and the remainder of project design to reduce the possibility of invasive carp migration into Lake Michigan.

Meanwhile, current efforts to curb the spread of the carp—including focused commercial fishing, monitoring and prescribed netting—will continue.