Feds say they’ve stopped advance of Asian carp toward Lake Michigan
The advance of Asian carp toward Lake Michigan has been stopped about 80 miles below an electric barrier in the Chicago Waterway System, according to the federal government’s Asian carp czar.
John Goss said crews working on the Chicago Waterway System have beat back the invasive fish, which were imported to commercial fish farms in Arkansas in the 1960s and have since spread into the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and the Chicago Waterway System.
“The carp front is still 80-100 miles below the barrier and has not advanced in the past year,” Goss said.
He said electric barriers in the Chicago Waterway System, about 30 miles south of Chicago, are now pumping enough voltage into the water to prevent any fish from swimming through.
“The barrier is effective,” Goss said.
Conservation groups and some scientists have said the discovery of Asian carp DNA in waters connected to Lake Michigan suggests Asian carp may have already breached the electric barrier.
Goss said the fact that no live Asian carp were been found beyond the barrier in 2011 is cause for optimism. “It gives us increasing confidence that we have more time to work on the long-term solution,” Goss said.
Asian carp — which hog fish food, breed like mosquitoes and leap out of the water when disturbed by boats — could decimate the $7 billion Great Lakes fishery and pose potentially lethal threats to boaters.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying how best to keep Asian carp in the Mississippi River basin from invading the Great Lakes. Although the Corps study won’t be completed until at least 2015, Goss said the federal government is committed to creating an ecological separation between the two basins.
In January 2012, the Great Lakes Commission will release the results of a privately funded study exploring how to create an ecological separation between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basin.
Tim Eder, executive director of the Great Lakes Commission, said the coalition of Great Lakes governors wants more Asian carp barriers installed in the Chicago Waterway System by 2017. He said quick action is needed to keep the invasive fish from colonizing Lake Michigan and spreading to the other Great Lakes.