Noisemakers, electric cables and other devices are part of a $778 million plan approved by the Army Corps of Engineers last week to fortify an Illinois waterway and keep invasive Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite sent the proposed plan to Congress for evaluation last week, explaining the defenses that would be installed at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Ill., about 40 miles from Lake Michigan, a key choke point in a pathway between the lake and the carp-infested Illinois River.

“This report gives Congress what it needs to authorize funding for the project and finally advance a much-needed, long-term solution,” said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

If approved, the plan would establish new electric barriers to stop Asian carp from moving through the lock and dam, and install underwater speakers that would blast sound waves at the fish while ships move through the locks. It would also create an air bubble curtain, a system used to keep ice from building up near some locks that also annoys passing fish.

Scientists and environmentalists worry that Asian carp would decimate food sources and outcompete native specifies in the Great Lakes, just like they have with species in the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Legislators representing Michigan have pushed for the project for years and hope the funding will be approved quickly.

“If invasive species get into the Great Lakes, it will have a catastrophic effect on our commerce and way of life," said Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.).

A draft released in 2017 estimated that the project would cost $275 million, but the final price tag of $778 million would pay for an expedited process where the various technologies would be installed at the same time.

Timing of the project is crucial. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, sizable Asian carp stocks are just 4 to 6 miles from the site and about 47 miles from Lake Michigan. The Army Corps says with full, expedited funding, it hopes to complete the project by 2027.

“Two [Asian carp species] silver carp and bighead carp, are currently about 4 miles below" Brandon Road, the final report on the project said. “The proposed implementation strategy allows [barriers] to commence immediately following project authorization.”

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Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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