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Plan To Keep Asian Carp Out Of Great Lakes Needs Money

Waves crash on the shoreline at Lake Erie Bluffs in Perry. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
Waves crash on the shoreline at Lake Erie Bluffs in Perry.

Lake Erie advocates are hoping a proposed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project in Illinois will block invasive carp species from entering the Great Lakes — but they’re watching to see how officials will pay for it.

Representatives of several Great Lakes and environmental groups met Sept. 4 in Perry to talk with Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) about protecting the lake.

In May, the Army Corps approved a project at the Brandon Road Dam on the Des Plaines River near Joliet, Illinois. The project will use air bubbles, an electric barrier and underwater acoustics to deter carp from swimming up from the Mississippi River basin and into Lake Michigan.

The estimated price: $830 million, according to an Army Corps report. Illinois would have to come up with about $291 million, or 35 percent of the project. Construction could take until 2027.

“We really just need to work with our regional partners, our members that are in Congress that are in the watershed or even in Ohio to show them the importance of this project, and then when push comes to shove work collectively to pay for the non-federal portion,” said Pete Bucher, water resources director for the Ohio Environmental Council.

A U.S. House appropriations bill passed in June would increase funding for Army Corps environmental restoration projects like Brandon Road. The measure has yet to receive a vote in the Senate.

“This legislation invests in the long-term economic and environmental success of Great Lakes region, including reigning in the spread of deadly algal blooms in Lake Erie and preventing Asian Carp from taking hold in the Great Lakes,” Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) said in a news release marking the bill’s passage.

Joyce said he hopes Congress continues to work on the funding question when lawmakers return to Washington later this month.

“Because we’ve waiting too long to try to come up with an answer,” Joyce said. “Now that we have an answer, we need to fund the answer and get down to work on this.”

Great Lakes regional officials have worked for years to keep invasive carp from local waterways, erecting a two-mile barrier in Indiana in 2016. The carp could threaten native Lake Erie fish species like perch and walleye.

“As much as they run around and grab everything they can at the bottom end of the food chain,” Dave Spangler of the Ohio Charter Boat Association said, “our fish just won’t survive out of all that.”

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.