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Public reviews Asian carp management plan

Alex Doty • Sep 15, 2017 at 10:00 AM

MUSKEGON — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working on a plan aimed at preventing the spread of Asian carp in the Great Lakes, which would wreak havoc on the region’s $7 billion fishery.

The corps’ plan, released last month, identifies an array of potential strategies to block Asian carp at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the Des Plaines River in Joliet, Illinois. The plan would cost an estimated $275 million and includes the installation of underwater sound equipment, electric barriers and other measures.

“No one control can work by itself,” project manager Andrew Leichty said of the proposal. “The way to defend against the transfer (of invasive species) is a layered defense.”

Because the adult population of bighead and silver carp is immediately below Brandon Road, officials say that lock and dam marks a critical pinch-point where the migration of invasive carp must be stopped.

Also included in the plan are non-structural controls that could start as soon as the project receives funding from Congress. These controls include monitoring, overfishing, pest management, and public education and outreach. The structural controls would likely be constructed within five years of congressional approval, and are tentatively estimated for completion by 2025.

“We’re in a five-phase planning process,” Leichty said. “We’re in the middle of phase 3, which is public review and input.”

The public hearing at Muskegon Community College on Thursday night was the second of three such hearings scheduled around the regions to allow people to weigh in on the proposal. The first hearing was held Monday in Chicago. The third will be Sept. 18 at Joliet Junior College in Joliet.

Many in attendance at the Muskegon hearing stressed the urgency of addressing the threat of Asian carp, with some sharing concerns about the length of time it could take to get a project reviewed, funded and constructed.

“Not only is it eight years, but we’re adding Congress to it,” said Monte Rogers of Spring Lake. “Nobody wants them in the lake.”

Rogers noted that the best option, from his perspective, is to add the noise barriers to keep the invasive fish out of the Great Lakes. He also said that he is concerned about how Asian carp could get into the Great Lakes through other means, such as the St. Lawrence Seaway and other connecting waters.

Holland resident David Slikkers said he is also worried about the time it would take to get a project approved and constructed.

“The sense of urgency is missing from this plan,” he said. “You have the resources, you have the talent, and you have the means to get this done.”

Slikkers noted that the cost of implementation would be minimal compared to the negative economic impact on the Great Lakes region if Asian carp took hold.

In addition to the public, elected officials also spoke up at Thursday’s hearing.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, said that taking action at Brandon Road is essential to safeguard the Great Lakes from Asian carp, and noted that if the invasive fish gain access and reproduce within the Great Lakes region, the environmental and economic damage will be severe.

“The Brandon Road plan provides a potential solution for protecting the Great Lakes and preventing Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan,” he said. “With that said, I would like to see further explanation of the science and technology that would be utilized to stop Asian carp from advancing. Just months ago, a live Asian carp was found beyond the electric barriers — only 9 miles from the Great Lakes. This discovery demonstrates how the window of opportunity to protect our lakes is rapidly closing.”

If you missed your chance to attend one of the hearings, the Corps of Engineers report can be viewed and comments made online at http://glmris.anl.gov/brandon-rd.

Comments also can be mailed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District, attention: GLMRIS-Brandon Road Comments, 231 LaSalle St., Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60604. All comments must be postmarked by Nov. 16, 2017.

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