Carp Barrier Finished For Years, Never Activated

A $9 million electric Asian carp barrier built to keep these enormous invasive fish out of the Great Lakes was completed in 2006. But it was never turned on because of confusion over what agencies have jurisdiction over the project. I covered this story in 2005, when it looked like a solution was just about finished (see Electrical Barrier To Keep Asian Carp Out Of Great Lakes for more pictures and details).

Asian carp, which weigh up to 100 pounds, were imported into the US for use as bottom feeders in catfish farm ponds in the lower Mississippi. The carp found their way into the Mississippi when the river flooded (who could have predicted that?) in the 1990's. Now they're moving north.

The only path that the carp have to the Great Lakes is an artificial waterway called the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The electric barrier is a system of underwater electrodes that should prevent the fish from migrating up the canal.


(Asian carp barrier location map)

Wildlife biologists fear for the Great Lakes fish species that will perish when out-competed for resources by the Asian carp. The Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies are concerned about the high voltage electrodes, particularly if volatile cargoes like gasoline are transiting on the surface of the canal.

Last week, a letter from 29 US senators and representatives and another letter from the eight Great Lakes governors moved the Coast Guard to agree to turn the barrier on - but only at quarter-strength. Wildlife biologists don't think this will be enough, and the Coast Guard doesn't want it turned up higher. Impasse again.

The Great Lakes have enough problems without giant carp added to the mix. I find it incredible that this $9 million project was completed and yet it cannot be utilized. Carp have been sighted within fifty miles of the barrier;

Science fiction author Roger Zelazny wrote a series of excellent stories published as My Name is Legion in 1976. One of them is set in a marine park in Florida. The park is divided into four separate areas by sonic curtains, which are described as a "sound barrier" that protects the species in the park. Each sonic curtain is controlled by a switches on the bottom; in an unusual touch, dolphins in the park teach each other how to use the controls so they can move freely.

Read many more details at The Tribune.

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