The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said it will pledge $8 million to the building of an Asian carp barrier at Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Illinois. The state agency said in a statement that recent DNA findings in waters near Lake Michigan “underscore the need for action.”
The new barrier on the Illinois River is designed to keep the invasive species from entering the Great Lakes.
In a Nov. 4 letter, DNR director Dan Eichinger explained to Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that the funds were appropriated as non-federal match for the design of a system of structural and non-structural control measures at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in the Chicago Area Waterway System near Joliet, Ill.
Eichinger said Brandon Road is a “critical pinch point for keeping bighead, silver and black carp — the Asian carp species of greatest concern — out of the Great Lakes.”
The letter follows an announcement three days earlier that 76 of 414 water samples from waters connected to Lake Michigan tested positive for environmental DNA (eDNA) for invasive carp. Forty-nine of the water samples from the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River were positive for silver carp eDNA, and 27 were positive for bighead carp eDNA.
“Our economy and way of life in Michigan depend on the preservation of our water, but right now the threat of invasive species like Asian carp is putting the future of our Great Lakes, our economy and Michiganders’ well-being at risk,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the statement. “The threat of Asian carp is not new. It has grown to the point where we cannot afford to delay action. That’s why my administration has prioritized Great Lakes protection, and I’m hopeful that we can continue to work with our partners across the region to keep them safe from invasive species.”
The rise in Asian carp DNA also prompted the Illinois DNR to undertake additional surveillance to detect the presence of the invasive fish.
The Brandon Road project, awaiting congressional approval, would install an additional electric barrier, underwater sound, air-bubble curtain and a flushing lock in a newly engineered channel to prevent carp movement, while allowing shipping into and out of the Great Lakes.
“The recent eDNA findings present one more piece of evidence that we need to move the Brandon Road project from concept to reality as soon as possible,” Eichinger said.
Michigan “has the most at stake” if Asian carp infest the Great Lakes, Eichinger said. The state has more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes coastline, 11,000 inland lakes, and 36,000 miles of rivers and streams.
The invasive species could alter the Great Lakes ecosystem, added Eichinger, affecting the $7 billion fishery and $16 billion boating industry, as well as other tourism-based industries, property owners, recreationists and others dependent on the Great Lakes and its tributaries.