Coast Guard study finds rules are adequate for electric fish barrier

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A new Coast Guard study showed that the rules governing vessel traffic across Chicago’s electric fish barrier effectively address the risks posed by the barrier’s electrified waters.

The study by the Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center found that existing regulations substantially mitigate the risks associated with the barrier, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

Although the total risk associated with the barrier was deemed relatively low, certain scenarios presented markedly higher risks, such as a person falling into the water and being shocked. The report makes recommendations that could further reduce the risks.

“Our primary mission is to safeguard people and vessels operating on the navigable waters of the United States,” Cmdr. Scott Anderson, chief of inspections and investigations for the Coast Guard Ninth District, said in a Coast Guard News story. “Studies like these help confirm that existing regulations meet this goal and highlight areas where we can continue to improve public safety while facilitating marine commerce.”

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, in which the Coast Guard partners with 15 other agencies to rehabilitate the ecosystem’s health and prevent the movement of aquatic invasive species into the Great Lakes, funded the study.

The electric fish barrier system in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was built and is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers to limit the spread of aquatic invasive species, including Asian carp, between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.