Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bipartisan groups of lawmakers, state attorneys general urge Army Corps to act on Asian carp

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel maps; click on the image to enlarge it.
"A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not to further delay its study on how to upgrade a waterway choke point near Lake Michigan to deter Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes," Melissa Burke reports for The Detroit News.

The Corps of Engineers released a draft in August that detailed a $275 million plan to keep the invasive species from getting into Lake Michigan by using electric barriers and other deterrents at the Brandon Road lock and dam near Joliet, Ill. The original timeline for the project calls for the final version of the report to be done by February 2019.

The Dec. 7 letter co-signed by 26 members of the House urges the Corps to stick to that original timeline, saying more delays will increase the likelihood that the carp will reach the Great Lakes. The letter also echoed a similar letter sent to the Corps by the senators of Michigan, saying that the process is taking far too long. "Current estimates indicate it will take as long as eight years to have a barrier installed at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam," wrote U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, and Gary Peters. "This timeframe is simply unacceptable with Asian carp having been discovered closer and closer to the Great Lakes, including an adult Asian carp captured above the electric barrier, just nine miles from Lake Michigan" in June.

"Construction of the full upgrades for Brandon Road is likely years away," Burke reports. First, the Corps must conduct a feasibility study, then federal and state agencies must review it, then the chief of engineers will issue the final report. If Congress authorizes and funds the project, it could be constructed about four years after authorization.

The attorneys general in three Great Lakes states are urging a faster solution: shut down the Brandon Road lock and dam entirely and put up a big concrete wall. Republican Bill Schuette of Michigan and Democrats Lori Swanson of Minnesota and Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania sent a letter to the Army Corps proposing the plan, which they say would cost about $5.9 million.

"The group cites an analysis co-authored by Wayne State University supply-chain management professor John C. Taylor and East Lansing transportation consultant James Roach that concludes the Corps overstates the economic impact of closing the dam, which the Corps determined would hit shippers and bulk producers with about $318 million in "lost transportation cost savings," Garret Ellison reports for Michigan Live.

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