Report Released Documenting the 2009 and 2010 Large-Scale Rotenone Applications in the Chicago Area Waterway System

Two large-scale and complex applications of rotenone in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) in 2009 and 2010 to combat invasive Asian carp are documented in this report. Rotenone is a fish toxicant that targets gill-breathing organisms by inhibiting respiration and breaks down quickly in the environment. In December 2009, rotenone was applied in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) at multiple stations through a 6.2-mile reach of the canal near Lockport, Illinois. The rotenone was being applied as a precautionary measure during maintenance of the electric fish barrier in place to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Tracking the movement of the rotenone is critical to time the addition of the deactivation chemical to neutralize the toxin.  The rotenone plume was encased in Rhodamine WT dye (red in color) so that two survey boats provided real-time feedback to shore personnel regarding the plume extent as it traveled downstream. Real-time tracking of the rotenone was essential in this large-scale application because of the multistage injection strategy and the numerous deactivation points required to minimize collateral damage to fisheries in surrounding and receiving water bodies. A second application of rotenone in May 2010 to the Little Calumet River near O’Brien Lock and Dam (Illinois) provided another opportunity for dye-tracking support operations. In this case, dye was injected at the upstream and downstream boundaries of the rotenone application to track movement of water in and out of a treatment area. This dye tracking allowed proper deactivation to occur and avoided unnecessary damage to fisheries downstream. The data collected during the real-time tracking operations for both rotenone applications is fully documented in this report, providing valuable information for future applications.

This is a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funded project in the Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework 2011 (Action Item 2.1.2) and Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework 2012 (Action Item 2.1.3).

The publication can be viewed at the USGS Publications website at: