Commander Col. Frederic A. Drummond Jr, USACE, Chicago District
Photo Credit: USACE

Commander Col. Frederic A. Drummond Jr, USACE, Chicago District
Photo Credit: USACE

Partner’s Update – August 2013

At the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we manage an extensive aquatic ecosystem restoration program that includes sustaining our water resources and protecting and restoring our natural treasures, from the smallest wetlands to our Great Lakes. The Corps is proud to be a part of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee and its recent unveiling of the 2013 Asian carp control strategy framework to prevent sustainable populations of the invasive fish from establishing in the Great Lakes.

This is one of the most well-coordinated efforts that I have been a part of, and this framework is a testament to all of the hard work and painstaking efforts made by each dedicated member agency.

The Corps has direct involvement with 26 action items in the framework, with lead on 10. Our base budget for these activities is just over $29 million, and our U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes and Restoration Initiative allocation is just over $3.5 million. GLRI funding has been vital in helping us continue to carry out these critical prevention missions.

We are working on a new electric barrier to deter fish through an electric field in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, authorized by Congress as an upgrade to the demonstration barrier that has been operating since 2002. In-water structures for this barrier will be installed spring 2014. More than one barrier is needed, so these complex electrical and mechanical systems can be occasionally powered down for maintenance. Each barrier built takes lessons learned from the previous ones to ensure the most effective prevention tool possible. We continue to work with our partners and stakeholders to assess the Asian carp threat and make informed decisions regarding barrier operations. Currently, the adult population front of Asian carp is about 55 miles from Lake Michigan and has not moved for several years. Laboratory and tagged fish results continue to show that these barriers are effective. As of this spring, individually-coded transmitters have been implanted into approximately 238 fish of all sizes in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS). There have been over 6 million detections of these fish with no tagged fish crossing the barriers in the upstream direction. No Asian carp have been captured or observed above the barriers in the last two years after 33,000 person hours of surveillance in the CAWS.

A comprehensive barrier effectiveness study that analyzes a range of technical, environmental and biological factors is due out later this year. Prior study findings have led to implementable actions, such as the 13-mile long Des Plaines River fence and concrete barriers to address potential overland bypass during flooding along the river.

Though Asian carp environmental DNA sampling has successfully transitioned to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this summer, the Corps continues to lead the charge along with the service and the U.S. Geological Survey to determine what a positive DNA water sample really means, so scientists are armed with the best possible tool; it is our ecological and fiscal responsibility to do so. Lab and field studies show there are several ways DNA can get into the water, though we do acknowledge that a live fish is one way. Other sources of DNA include fishing gear and barges that travel from areas with high numbers of Asian carp. Bird-tagging studies show that some carp-eating birds can travel 800 miles, which may lead to positive detection of Asian carp eDNA from bird feces.

These are exciting times for the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) Team. We are working around the clock and are on track toward reaching the goal of submitting a GLMRIS Report to Congress in December that will identify a range of options or technologies that are available to prevent the inter-basin transfer of aquatic nuisance species of concern via the direct, continuous connection between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins through the CAWS. The report will also summarize the important work that has been completed on the 18 other sites outside of the CAWS that have been identified as potential intermittent transfer sites during periods of high water, such as the high-risk rated transfer site at Eagle Marsh in Indiana.

Engineers, scientists, economists and other technical experts have been assembled from nearly a dozen different Corps District offices, research laboratories and centers of expertise to collaborate on GLMRIS.  Over 90 different technologies were identified and screened to evaluate which may be the most proven, effective and reliable options to prevent the transfer through an aquatic pathway for aquatic nuisance fish, algae, crustaceans and plants in all life stages.  Among the various prevention options in the report, hydrologic separation scenarios, or physical barriers, will be included.

The team is working on predictive flood, water-quality and navigation models to help understand potential impacts to uses and users of the waterway if certain controls are put in place, like physical barriers.

We are proud of this team’s past achievements and confident in the continued success of our 2013 initiatives.

Visit the Chicago District’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Portal to learn more about our four-part Asian carp prevention strategy: http://www.lrc.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorksProjects/ANSPortal.aspx

Thanks for your continued interest in the prevention of Asian carp movement,
- Commander Col. Frederic A. Drummond Jr, USACE, Chicago District

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District Commander Col. Frederic A. Drummond Jr. holds up one of two approximately 70 pound bighead carp caught by electrofishing during the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee's media event for its release of the 2012 Asian Carp Monitoring and Rapid Response Plan, Garfield Park lagoon, Chicago, Ill., May 24, 2012. The carp have probably been there for many years, perhaps brought there when the pond was stocked or by a fisherman's bait bucket, as the lagoon is a land-locked body of water. Also pictured, holding fish, at right, Vic Santucci, Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Photo by USACE.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District Commander Col. Frederic A. Drummond Jr. holds up one of two approximately 70 pound bighead carp caught by electrofishing during the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee's media event for its release of the 2012 Asian Carp Monitoring and Rapid Response Plan, Garfield Park lagoon, Chicago, Ill., May 24, 2012. The carp have probably been there for many years, perhaps brought there when the pond was stocked or by a fisherman's bait bucket, as the lagoon is a land-locked body of water. Also pictured, holding fish, at right, Vic Santucci, Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Photo by USACE.

 

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