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Plan for enhanced Asian carp barrier in Illinois gets a boost

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Illustration of the proposed changes to the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Ill.

Plans for an enhanced barrier to try to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes might have just taken a crucial step forward.

The plan would fortify the existing Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Ill. to attempt to block carp from getting to Lake Michigan.

The project just got a signoff from the Illinois governor to go into a pre-construction and design phase.

Molly Flanagan is with the Alliance for the Great Lakes. She says it’s a big project, but it’s an essential one to keep invasive Asian carp out of the lakes.

“And it’s really important that we stay on schedule,” she says, “because we are talking about a project that’s going to take a number of years to complete.”

The Army Corps of Engineers estimates the current preferred project would cost nearly $780 million.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker says that’s too high.

“I will not sign a Project Partnership Agreement without a cost control strategy and additional cost sharing among the states,” Pritzker wrote in a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers. “However, the State of Illinois is willing to move forward to preconstruction, engineering and design on the project.”

The proposed plan calls for redesigning the channel at the current Brandon Road Lock and Dam, installing an “air bubble curtain,” an electric barrier and a barrier that sends sounds underwater to deter the fish from swimming toward the barrier.

Michigan has offered $8 million to support the project, though that offer was rebuffed by Illinois’ previous governor. 

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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