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Asian Carp

Asian Carp arrived in the United States in 1963 as part of an experiment to reduce nuisance vegetation without the use of poisons that might enter the food chain, and sewage treatment. Prior to the Clean Water Act, American rivers were often highly polluted and the bottom feeding varieties of carp excelled in sewage treatment lagoons.

Arkansas breeders flushed the Carp into canals and waterways where they began to flourish and breed, gradually expanding into the Mississippi River and throughout the massive watershed of the river across 31 states.

Awareness grew in the 1990's as the fish began to dominate the Illinois River and by 2002 the Corps of Engineers had finished construction of a demonstration electric barrier near Romeoville, IL.  In 2008 the Demonstration Barrier underwent repairs and the second, more powerful, electric barrier began construction not far downstream. Barrier IIA and IIB became live in 2009 and 2011. Another barrier was under construction in 2014.

The Chicago District, Corps of Engineers operates and maintains the barriers. Barrier I was authorized and constructed at full federal expense. Barrier IIA was initially authorized requiring a nonfederal sponsor and cost share. OWR contributed $1.8M. Barrier IIB was constructed at full federal expense, and operation and maintenance of the electric dispersal barrier project is also a full federal expense.

In 2015, Congress identified Brandon Road Lock and Dam as the site for enhanced efforts to prevent the upstream transfer of aquatic invasive species. On May 4, 2018 the State of Illinois offered by letter to sponsor the US Army Corps of Engineers Asian Carp project near Joliet.

DNA monitoring of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal began in 2009 and found Carp DNA beyond the last lock in place before the electric barriers and beyond the barriers as well. Advocates for closing the two navigation Chicago locks to Lake Michigan began calling for Watershed Separation and taking the lock issue to court.

During major rain events, these two locks are opened to allow storm water to flow into Lake Michigan rather than flood the city, however, no actual Asian Carp were found by fishermen or repeated fish kill efforts until one small Bighead Carp in December 2009. A second, adult, Bighead Carp was caught in a fishing net six miles from Lake Michigan in June 2010. Other DNA traces have been found above the barriers.

In early 2014 the Corps of Engineers, in consultation with other federal agencies, Native American tribes, state agencies, local governments and non-governmental organizations, released a study documenting potential watershed separation that would cost $18 billion and take decades to complete. A competing study commissioned by Great Lakes region Mayors and Governors concluded that the separation could be accomplished for $4.25 billion, in far less time. Both are on hold. Potential local sponsors could include IDNR and the MWRDGC.

A physical barrier was constructed in Indiana across one potential watershed separation site in 2016 at Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve near Fort Wayne, Indiana. Asian Carp have been found in the Minnesota River but dams at prairie du Sac and St. Croix Falls would prevent further inroads.

The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study ( GLMRIS ) report was submitted to Congress in 2014 with eight options for prevention of the spread of 13 aquatic nuisance species through waterways. 

On January 6, 2014, the Corps of Engineers, in consultation with other federal agencies, Native American tribes, state agencies, local governments and non-governmental organizations, submitted the GLMRIS report to Congress, the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study to explore options and technologies that could be applied to prevent Aquatic Nuisance Species transfer between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.

The Corps of Engineers Brandon Road Lock & Dam draft report was initiated in April, 2015 by the Rock Island District, and was scheduled to be released in February 2017 has been delayed and a release date is undetermined. The leading edge of Asian carp are thought to be ten miles downriver of the Brandon Road Lock, and efforts to reduce carp populations in the Illinois River may have dropped populations by 68% according to one estimation.

March 2017 : How Asian carp could soon take over the Great Lakes — and how they could be stopped  ( PDF ) By Dan Egan

In June 2017, a second live Asian Carp was found above the three electric barriers in the Sanitary and Ship Canal near Romeoville. The first was found in 2010.

Several Asian Carp have also been found in Canadian waters in Lake Michigan since 2015.

Asian Carp

Target Hunger Now! works with sportsmen and meat processors to provide donated venison, and fish from commercial fishermen and processors to the Illinois food bank network to put healthy meals on the tables of struggling Illinois families.

July 13, 2010 : “Protecting the Great Lakes is vital to millions of people from Illinois and throughout the Midwest who rely on these waterways for their livelihoods,” said then Governor Quinn. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, in conjunction with the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC), has established a Framework intended to keep Asian carp from establishing populations in the Great Lakes. These measures include: Operations to reduce propagule pressure on barriers, Increased fish collection efforts and population suppression, Evaluation of current suppression tools, as well as future fish suppression activities, Emergency measures to prevent bypass of fish between the Des Plaines River and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, as well as between the Illinois & Michigan Canal and the CSSC during flood events, Increased biological control efforts, and Construction of a third electric barrier.

To learn more about the efforts of the ACRCC, visit