Officials from The US Army Corps of Engineers concluded a series of meetings with the public this week, discussing the Core’s long awaited plan to keep the invasive Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. The meetings concluded Monday in Joliet, Illinois, while a meeting in Muskegon was held last Thursday. Mark Conrish, a Supervisory Biologist at the Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District, said that the public’s input is essential before making any further decisions.
“We really want to get the opinion of the public,” Cornish said. “It’s really important that we get their opinion, and that we take that into account, before we make a financial decision on behalf of the taxpayer,” he said.
The Corps plans include using electronic barriers, underwater speakers and equipping the Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the Illinois River with a flush system to keep the invasive fish out of the Great Lakes. Some people however, aren’t convinced that the plan is the best way forward. Many voiced concerns at the meetings that after the recent discovery of a silver carp in a Chicago waterway seven miles from Lake Michigan, a number of people at the meetings expressed a growing concern that the eight years it will take for the Corps to implement its plan is too long to wait.
According to a number of experts, if Asian Carp get into the Great Lakes, they would compete with native fish like walleye and trout for food, potentially wiping the native fish out. The effects could have long term ecological ramifications, as well as cripple the fishing and boating industries. Many commented to the Coprs that the fastest and safest solution would be to simply close the waterway between the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan. However, the Barge Industry that relies on that waterway to transport goods doesn’t want that to happen, says Dr. Alan Steinman.
“The Barge carriers are very concerned that this would slow up commodity traffic between the two basins, and that the barge transfer of the commodities would take a lot of time, and time is money,” Steinman said.
Dr. Steinman is the director of the Annis B. Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University.
“And I don’t think anybody’s ready to bite the economic and political bullet to separate these hydrological barriers, but if we are talking about a long term solution, then ultimately that’s got to be it.”