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Environment & Climate Change
Asian carp have been making their way up the Mississippi River system for years after escaping from fish farms and wastewater treatment ponds in the southern U.S.They’re knocking on the door of the Great Lakes, and a number of people are concerned about what could happen if carp become established in the region.In this five-part series, we’ll take a look at what officials are trying to do to keep the fish out, what might happen if carp get in, and why some people want to turn carp into a business opportunity.

Army Corps considers more barriers to block Asian carp

A bighead carp at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
Rebecca Williams
/
Michigan Radio
A bighead carp at the Shedd Aquarium (perhaps a face only its mother could love).

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is figuring out new ways to try to block two species of Asian carp — bighead and silver — from getting into Lake Michigan. The Corps also wants to block other aquatic nonnative species from getting into the Lakes from the Mississippi River system.

They’re considering whether to put in new barriers near the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in the Des Plaines River near Chicago. The site is about five miles downstream from a system of electric barriers in the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal. Those barriers are essentially the last line of defense against Asian carp in the Chicago area.

“This may be a perfect site to implement a range of different kinds of technologies," says Dave Wethington, a project manager with the Army Corps in Chicago.

He says the Corps could put in barriers that block fish passage into the lock and dam, or more electric barriers. It could also put in special water guns that use pressure waves to deter carp.

Wethington says the leading edges of the bighead and silver carp populations are estimated to be about 55 miles from Lake Michigan.

If Asian carp make it into the Great Lakes, many people worry they could cause billions of dollars in damage. The large fish are voracious feeders that can outcompete native species. Silver carp can weigh up to 60 pounds each, and tend to jump when startled, which could injure people and damage boats.

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