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EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works John Paul Woodley, Jr. announced that a funding package has been assembled to allow construction of an enhanced barrier to keep the invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
The U.S. House and Senate voted to increase the cap on federal spending for the project, authorizing $6.825 million, which is 75 percent of the $9.1 million needed to complete the barrier. The Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the project, says, with this authorization approved, it will be able to fund the federal share. The State of Illinois has committed $1.7 million and the Great Lakes governors have committed to funding the remaining nonfederal share of $575,000.
"Asian carp threaten both the ecology and the economy of the Great Lakes system," Leavitt said. "The collaborative effort that brought together the Great Lakes Congressional delegation, Great Lakes Governors, federal agencies, and the city of Chicago for the success we celebrate today provides hope that through the Regional Collaboration called for in the Executive Order we can protect and eventually restore this great natural resource."
Asian carp are a significant threat to the Great Lakes because they are large, extremely prolific, and consume vast amounts of food. Asian carp are well-suited to the climate of the Great Lakes region, which is similar to their native Eastern Hemisphere habitats. If they entered the system, they would compete for food with the valuable sport and commercial fish, and could become a dominant species in the Great Lakes.
The increased funding means the permanent electric barrier now under construction on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal can be built as originally planned. This barrier, scheduled to be completed in February 2005, stretches two rows of electrodes across the canal approximately 220 feet apart. The electrodes pulse DC current into the water; fish will turn back rather than pass through the electric current. Funding announced today will cover construction of a second control house so that the two sets of electrodes primary and backup can be operated simultaneously. Funding also covers design changes to provide a stronger, more consistent electric field.
Two species of Asian carpthe silver and the bigheadescaped into the Mississippi River from southern aquaculture facilities in the 1980s and significantly expanded their range during large floods in the early 1990s. Steadily, the carp have made their way northward, becoming the most abundant species in some areas of the Mississippi, out-competing native fish, and causing severe hardship to the people who fish the river. The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal connects the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes via the Illinois River. Recent monitoring shows the carp to be in the river within 50 miles of Lake Michigan.
Agencies and stakeholders will continue to work to prevent the migration of Asian carp and other invasive species through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal Aquatic Nuisance Species Barrier Project. Partners in this effort include: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, Commonwealth Edison, the Dispersal Barrier Advisory Panel, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Great Lakes Sportfishing Council, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the International Joint Commission, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Midwest Generation, the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wisconsin Sea Grant, and other state, nongovernmental, and academic partners.
President Bush issued an Executive Order in 2004, which called for convening a body of regional and national leaders to work towards common environmental goals. That body, comprised of a Federal Task Force, members of the Great Lakes States, Local Communities, Tribes, Regional bodies, and other stakeholders is charged with working together to solve the problem of invasive species as well as other environmental challenges in the region.
On Dec. 3, 2004, Great Lakes Governors, certain members of the President's Cabinet, Members of the Great Lakes Congressional Delegation, Great Lake Mayors and Tribal Leaders will meet in Chicago, Ill., to convene the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration. The Conveners Meeting will provide a forum for the region's leaders and interested stakeholders to publicly and formally declare that the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration will serve as the mechanism to develop a widely understood and broadly supported strategy to further protect and restore the Great Lakes.