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USACE study evaluates options for Asian carp controls at Brandon Road Lock and Dam

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has released a study that evaluates six alternatives for controlling the one-way, upstream transfer of ANS from the Mississippi River basin into the Great Lakes basin at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, IL. USACE used various criteria to compare the alternatives and tentatively selected an option that includes 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 Asian carp 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 approximately $20 million annually to operate.

USACE’s recommendation is not without controversy. Commercial vessel operators that must traverse the Brandon Road Lock and Dam assert that the USACE’s recommendation would unreasonably delay the time of transit. According to USACE, after construction, transit time through the lock would increase from 2.10 hours to 4.54 hours and result in approximately $26.2 million in increased transportation costs. By contrast, while NGO representatives generally acknowledge that the recommended option is a good “first step” toward managing the risk of AIS transfer in the CAWS, some assert that the tentatively selected option does not go far enough. According to the study, the option would reduce the risk that Asian carp become established in the Great Lakes before 2071 from 29% (if no further federal control is implemented) to 13%. Closing the lock altogether would reduce the risk from 29% to 2%, but would increase transportation costs by an estimated $318.7 million.

USACE is accepting public comments on the tentatively selected plan until November 16. The Chicago Area Waterways System Advisory Committee (CAWS-AC) meets in Chicago on October 25-26 to discuss the plan and attempt to determine whether members can reach consensus on any aspect of the plan. A copy of 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/.