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Great Lakes, Chicago Waterways, and Asian Carp

Asian Carp and the threat they pose to the Great Lakes has been in and out of the news for some time now, and has just recently been spotlighted by a new report prepared by the US Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps).  “Asian carp are fast-growing, aggressive and adaptable fish that are outcompeting native fish species for food and habitat in much of the mid-section of the United States.1

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) submitted to Congress the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Inter-basin Study (GLMRIS) Report Jan. 6, 2014….The report contains eight alternatives, each with concept-level design and cost information, and evaluates the potential of these alternatives to prevent, to the maximum extent possible, the spread of 13 ANS, to include Asian carp…” 2    The  Army Corps, during the Month of January 2014, is in process of hosting public meetings in Chicago, Cleveland, Ann Arbor, Traverse City, St. Paul, St. Louis and Milwaukee to discuss the options available and allow for public comment.  Since all of the options offered require extensive funding, there needs to be public support for any plan put into action.

The Chicago Area Waterway (CAW) system has been the main topic of conversation regarding the threat of Asian Carp entering the Great Lakes. In this new report, the Army Corps identifies 18 other possibilities for passage of Asian Carp and other species into the waterways.  One passage where preventive measures are needed is known as Eagle March, near Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Eagle Marsh is at the headwaters of the Wabash River, which is part of the Mississippi River Basin, and the Maumee River, which is part of the Great Lakes Basin. During flood events, water depths in Eagle Marsh range from 2 feet deep to 10 feet deep. These events last from just days or up to a month, and can occur multiple times during any given year. These events allow for a clear passage for Asian Carp and other species between the two basins.

Several species of Asian Carp are known to be present in the Wabash River, and are within 25-70 miles of Eagle Marsh.  To reach Eagle Marsh, the fish would need to enter Little River and then a series of ditches. Upon reaching Eagle Marsh, the free passage to the Great Lakes (Erie) via the Maumee River can occur. To date, there is no certain evidence that the fish have reached Little River. There is no evidence of Asian Carp in Eagle Marsh either; however there is evidence of common carp, which have made successful passage for decades.

Several projects are currently in place or in the design phase to prevent passage of these invasive and destructive fish from our waterways.   Currently a temporary chain link fence has been installed between the two basins and is meant to prevent larger fish from gaining free passage. Other possibilities for implementation include structural barriers, chemical treatments, biological controls and physical fish removal.

Our waterways are an important resource to be protected.  At MeritCorp Group, LLC we want to help our clients make informed decisions and provide information needed to create eco-friendly developments focused on the best use of natural resources.  Some of our services include Flood Control, Stormwater Management, Erosion Control, and Drainage.  For a complete list of the services we offer please see our website.

Please feel free to contact our office with any questions or for more information on the services we provide.

– by James Meier, PE, PLS, CFM

  1.  National Wildlife Federation website:  http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Threats-to-Wildlife/Invasive-Species/Asian-Carp.aspx
  2. Army Corps of Engineers Report www.glmris.anl.gov
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