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US Army Corps of Engineers releases Brandon Road study

On August 7, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) released a study that evaluates aquatic nuisance species (ANS) control technologies that could be constructed in the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, IL to control the one-way, upstream transfer of ANS from the Mississippi River basin into the Great Lakes basin. The study (GLMRIS-Brandon Road Draft Integrated Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement – Will County, Illinois) is available on the GLMRIS-Brandon Road website at http://glmris.anl.gov/brandon-rd/.

USACE evaluated six alternative approaches for controlling ANS at the dam and has recommended an option that would include several elements:

  • construction of an engineered channel in the downstream approach to the lock
  • a second set of electric barriers to deter ANS that swim from entering the lock
  • “flushing” to remove ANS “floaters”
  • water jets to dislodge ANS “hitch-hikers” (organisms that attach to the outside of vessels), and
  • complex noise to deter fish that slip through.

USACE asserts that this option reduces the risk that ANS from the Mississippi River basin will establish populations in the Great Lakes Basin to the maximum extent possible while minimizing impacts to waterway uses and users. USACE estimates that this option will take four years to construct, cost $275.4 million (including a $96.4 million non-federal match), and require $10 million to $20 million in annual operation and maintenance.

USACE announced a 45-day public comment period (to September 21) to obtain public input on the report and recommendation, but an extension to the public comment period is likely. USACE has scheduled three public meetings to discuss the report and recommendations: September 11 in Chicago, September 14 in Muskegon, MI, and September 18 in Joliet, Illinois. The public meetings will be broadcast on Facebook Live. To view the live feed of the meetings at http://www.facebook.com/RockIslandDistrictUSACE.

On a related note, an autopsy on the live Asian carp that was pulled out of the Chicago Area Waterway System about nine miles from Lake Michigan on June 23 has been completed. Scientists have concluded from the autopsy that the fish originated in the Illinois/Middle Mississippi watershed but spent at least 25% of its life in the Des Plaines River watershed before being captured in the Calumet River. Scientists could not determine whether the fish slipped through the electric dispersal barriers to reach the capture location.