By Sarah Gross
"Working with our partners to protect our national treasures, our Great Lakes, from aquatic nuisance species is critical," said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Chicago District Commander Col. Frederic A. Drummond Jr. "The Corps mission is about sustaining our water resources, sustaining our communities and sustaining our nation's economic resources."
USACE, along with its partners in the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, is committed to preventing these invasive fish from becoming established in the Great Lakes to include putting electricity in water, participating in extensive monitoring to locate the fish, increasing the understanding of DNA water samples and conducting an extensive study that looks at options to prevent the transfer of all aquatic nuisance species (ANS) between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.
Since 2002, USACE has been operating barriers approximately 37 miles from Lake Michigan that pulse electricity into the water of the man-made Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) to deter the movement of Asian carp and other ANS.
The CSSC was constructed to address sanitation and flooding in the Chicago area. However, its completion also created a continuous connection for the invasive poster child Asian carp and other ANS to move between the basins.
Zero Asian carp were captured or observed above the barriers in the last two years after hundreds of interagency monitoring trips, including192 hours of emitting an electric current from a boat and netting stunned fish and 81.7 miles of traditional netting, which resulted in nearly 100,000 fish. Adult populations of Asian carp are currently located approximately 60 miles downstream from Lake Michigan.
USACE is also leading a study to improve the understanding and interpretation of environmental DNA analysis that helps detect the potential presence of live Asian carp through genetic material, such as slime, feces and urine, in water samples. Preliminary study findings suggest fisheries sampling gear, fish-eating birds, fish carcasses and barges may contribute to a positive eDNA detection without a live fish being present.
The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study Team explores options and technologies that could be applied to prevent ANS transfer through aquatic pathways along the 1,500 mile-long basin divide that includes the Chicago Area Waterway System and 18 other potential intermittent pathways. A report will be submitted to Congress in December that presents a range of alternatives that could be implemented to reduce the risk of transfer of ANS between these two large basins.
"I am floored by the teamwork at all levels that has already taken place within this Asian carp fight; it is a great puzzle that, together, can be solved," said USACE, Chicago District Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Jim Schreiner. "We are taking a prudent approach in considering the threat as real."
USACE strives to protect, sustain, and improve the natural and man-made environment of our nation, and is committed to compliance with applicable environmental and energy statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders. Sustainability is not only part of the Corps' decision processes, but is also part of its culture.