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Whitmer, Illinois governor agree to share costs on Asian carp project

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Published: Jan. 7, 2021 at 1:56 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her counterpart in Illinois announced an agreement Thursday to share costs of designing a barrier that would keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

Michigan will send $8 million to Illinois for engineering and design of the Brandon Road Ecosystem Project near Joliet, Ill. Illinois has a separate partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and construct the project on the Chicago Area Waterway System.

Engineers are calling for a combination system of electric barriers, underwater sound, an air bubble curtain and a flushing lock on the waterway to block Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes ecosystem from the Mississippi River. Michigan wildlife experts believe Asian carp would decimate the state’s $7 billion annual fishing industry.

Recreation and tourism on the Great Lakes also could be affected if Asian carp proliferate.

“I am determined to continue to use every tool at my disposal to keep harmful invasive species from damaging the Great Lakes ecology and our economy,” Whitmer said.

The Brandon Road lock would remain open for vessel traffic and would not include a hard barrier that some environmentalists have called for to physically separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River.

Illinois’ agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers says the state must cover 35% of engineering and design costs, which will include the $8 million contribution from Michigan. The Michigan Legislature appropriated the state’s share of funding in 2018.

The engineering and design at the Brandon Road Lock is expected to take three to four years, after which all Great Lakes states and provinces will need to reach an agreement on construction and operation of the barriers.

“Michigan and Illinois agree on the importance of keeping invasive carp out of the Great Lakes, and natural resources staff from both states have been working together to support the Army Corps’ actions to deter and remove invasive carp in the waterway,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Eichinger. “This agreement is the natural progression of our existing partnership as we take steps toward a more permanent solution to prevent this serious threat to the economy and ecology of the Great Lakes.”

Three electric barriers already are in place on waterways leading to the Great Lakes near Romeoville, Ill., near Chicago with a fourth slated to be installed later this year.

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