Saturday, November 21, 2009

More News on Chicago River Poisoning : Asian Carp

Some good news from, plans to shut down over 5 miles of the waterway near the Asian carp barrier are underway.

The following is borrowed from this article.

Closing a 5 1/2 -mile stretch of waterway and poisoning it is not something to take lightly. But it's more than justified by efforts to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

Starting Dec. 2, a multi-agency task force will close off a portion of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal below the two electrical barriers intended to stop the carp from advancing out of the Mississippi basin and into Lake Michigan and the rest of the lakes. While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers turns off the newer, bigger barrier to inspect it, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will put a fish poison in the water and haul the carcasses to a landfill.

The barrier has been operating for six months and needs its first regular inspection, according to the Corps. Meantime, the older barrier is not considered sufficient to stop fish, especially smaller ones, from slipping through. DNA evidence from earlier tests suggests carp have come within a mile of the barrier. Hence the need for poison while the stronger barrier is down for inspection and maintenance.

Fisheries biologists have long experience with the poison that will be used and with a detoxifying chemical that is administered to counteract it. The antidote will be applied downstream to ensure no additional stretches of waterway are harmed, and then later in the poisoned stretch to return it to normal. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is contributing to the stock of antidote for the operation, and will supply up to a dozen crew members and whatever gear Illinois requests. As many as 200 people will be needed on site each day for the four to five days involved.

Some complaints have come from the shipping industry and barge operators who would have liked more lead time to prepare for the closure. But even those have been muted; most everyone seems to understand that protecting the Great Lakes takes priority here.

A third electrical barrier is supposed to be running by this time next year. In the meantime, another maintenance closure -- and presumably another round of fish poison -- may be necessary next spring.

Although it's an extreme measure, poisoning the canal should yield valuable information -- especially about how far Asian carp really have traveled -- that cannot be gleaned any other way. Let's hope the results don't suggest it should have been poisoned sooner.

We all must hope these plans are successful, as I've made clear in my recent posts, this is no matter to be taken lightly.

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