Nearly a dozen U.S. senators, including Dick Durbin of Illinois, are speaking out about the latest delay in the finalization of a plan to keep invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
Last week, 11 members of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Army’s Civil Works division raising concerns about the timeline for the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to fortify the barrier against Asian carp at a key spot along the carp’s path toward Lake Michigan.
Referred to as the Brandon Road Study, the plan was scheduled was to be released in February but was stalled by the Trump administration. The plan was eventually released this summer, initiating a 45-day public comment period and a series of public meetings that took place in September.
But on Nov. 15, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it was extending the public comment period until Dec. 8, the latest delay in a plan that the Corps says likely won’t be implemented until 2025.
“This timeline is particularly concerning given recent findings that demonstrated new ways for Asian carp to enter the Great Lakes,” the senators wrote in the letter.
The Army Corps did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the extension.
In June, a live Asian carp was caught in a Chicago waterway about 9 miles from Lake Michigan, beyond an electric barrier designed to keep the invasive fish from reaching the Great Lakes. It was only the second time a bighead or silver carp has been found beyond electric dispersal barriers in the past eight years, according to the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.
The Army Corps’ proposed plan calls for $275 million worth of construction at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam along the Des Plaines River in Joliet, a step it says would reduce the risk of Asian carp getting into the Great Lakes from 36 percent to about 15 percent.
There are several species of Asian carp threatening to invade the Great Lakes. If they do, advocates say the fish could have a devastating effect on the marine food chain and the region’s fishing industry.
“Studies have shown those impacts would include declines in native fish species and a one-third reduction of total fish weight in Lake Erie,” the senators wrote. “This threatens the Great Lakes’ world-class $7 billion per year fishing industry, $16 billion per year recreational boating industry and the hundreds of thousands of jobs these industries support.”
Aug. 29: The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers says the best place to stop Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes is the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet. But the state says the plan is too expensive for Illinois taxpayers and the shipping industry.
July 21: A plan to fortify a barrier against Asian carp was set to be released in February but has been stalled by the Trump administration.
June 29: An 8-pound Asian carp was discovered last week beyond an electric barrier designed to prevent the invasive fish from reaching Lake Michigan.