As congressional committees begin to debate the Water Resources Development Act, our representatives must keep in mind the need to address the looming threat of invasive carp to the Great Lakes – the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth and one of our country’s greatest natural resources.
Invasive carp, introduced to the United States in the 1970s to control aquatic vegetation, have wreaked ecological havoc as they compete with other fish for food and reproduce rapidly in areas bordering the Great Lakes and in many other state watersheds like Kentucky. Invasive carp cause serious damage to native fish populations and degrade ecosystems, but they also pose serious risks to boaters and water recreation when they jump out of the water when frightened.
With no known predators, these fish also pose a serious threat to the economic health of the Great Lakes, particularly the $7 billion commercial and sport fishing industry and its $16 billion recreational fishing industry. dollars. The invasive carp are located less than 50 miles from Lake Michigan, and a few years ago a live carp was found just nine miles from the lake, having likely breached a protective electrical barrier.
Congress rightly recognized the threat of invasive carp in the Great Lakes several years ago and subsequently tasked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to examine ways to prevent these nuisance fish from reaching the lakes. The Corps, in conjunction with the State of Illinois and other Great Lakes states, has made significant progress in designing innovative technological measures at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, Illinois. Illinois, which is the choke point for invasive carp from the Mississippi River Basin. in the Great Lakes.
The Brandon Road project, which consists of a series of measures including an underwater acoustic fish repellent, an air bubble curtain, electric barriers and a flush lock, has received a major boost in January when the Corps announcement that it would allocate $226 million to this project from the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This investment is sufficient to complete the design and engineering of the project so that the project can seamlessly move into the first phase of construction in 2024 when planning is complete.
However, there is one more thing Congress needs to do to ensure that the Brandon Highway Project is implemented as soon as possible: Answer the call of the Governors of the Great Lakes and change the cost sharing of the project to make it 100% federal, as opposed to the traditional cost-sharing agreement between the Corps and its local sponsor. Congress must see the Corps project as more than just a local water resource project. Since the innovative technologies the Corps is implementing at Brandon Road can be used elsewhere to prevent the spread of invasive species to other states and critical waterways, this is clearly a project with national benefits. . Plus, the project benefits more than one state, as it protects a watershed that serves all eight Great Lakes states, as well as two Canadian provinces, proving it even has international benefits. More importantly, the change in cost sharing will ensure that the project moves to construction as soon as the design is complete.
Local governments in the Great Lakes region have already committed millions of dollars to trying to control other aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels and sea lampreys. Fortunately, it’s still not too late to stop the spread of invasive carp in the Great Lakes. Raising the Brandon Road project’s cost share to 100% at the federal level is an investment in protecting the Great Lakes — and the nation’s waterways — and we urge Congress to do just that as it drafts the next Water Resources Development Act.
Don Jodrey is Director of Federal Relations at the Great Lakes Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working across the region to protect our most precious resource: the fresh, clean, natural waters of the Great Lakes.