Asian carp conference scheduled

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Great Lakes regional leaders will meet next month to consider a federal strategy for preventing Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan and discuss helping foot the bill for the pricey project, officials said Friday.

Representatives of the eight states and two Canadian provinces within the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River watershed are scheduled to gather July 16-17 in Chicago, where they will discuss a plan devised the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for halting the invasive fish.

It proposes fortifying the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, with devices such as loudspeakers, electric cables and air bubble curtains. The location on the Des Plaines River is a choke point in a network of rivers and canals between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, which the aggressive carp have overrun.

“We need to move quickly,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a conference of the region’s governors and premiers in Milwaukee, adding that the lakes would pay “an enormous price” if the carp breach defenses and become established in the lakes. “We have to make sure we have a barrier that is impenetrable.”

Scientists say the carp could out-compete native fish and upend the aquatic ecosystem by gobbling up tiny plants and animals at the base of food chains.

The Great Lakes states at times have been at odds over how to block the carps’ path, even battling in court over whether to build structures that would seal off Lake Michigan from infested waters downstream. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said at the gathering Friday he still prefers physical separation, which Illinois opposes, contending it would disrupt commercial vessel traffic on the busy waterway.

The Brandon Road upgrade is considered a compromise that would buy time to seek more comprehensive solutions, although it wouldn’t happen quickly: The target date for completion is March 2027.

A potential hang-up is the price tag, which the Army Corps estimates at $778 million to $832 million, depending on the installation timetable.