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Great Lakes invasive carp barrier system scaled down to be more cost efficient, but cost rises

The new Brandon Road invasive carp barrier design issued December 2022. (USACE)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found more efficient ways to construct a barrier near Chicago to keep invasive carp in the Mississippi River system out of the Great Lakes. But the cost is nearly 13 percent higher than a 2019 estimate. The Corps of Engineers blames inflation, material, and labor costs.

The price tag for the Brandon Road Lock and Dam barrier system near Chicago is now is nearly $1.2 billion.

Even then, there’s evidence the carp might get into the Great Lakes through some other river.

person dumping
A representative from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manually dumps a calculated number of fish between to barges during automated barge clearing deterrent testing at Peoria Lock and Dam on the Illinois River. This action was done to measure the effectiveness of the system. (Kelcy Hanson/ U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers, Rock Island District)


“Invasive carp are less likely to get into the Great Lakes through any of the other routes. The most likely way that they reach the Great Lakes is through the Chicago waterway system,” said Molly Flanagan, COO and Vice President for Programs for the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Flanagan added that the sheer number of invasive carp in the Mississippi River system make the Chicago waterway connection to Lake Michigan the biggest threat.

A non-federal match of ten percent, close to $115 million is required. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has pledged $50 million toward the project. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has included $64 million in her proposed budget.

If those state Legislatures approve the expenditures, the construction could start in 2024 and be completed in six to eight years, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ estimate.

It is to include leading edge deterrents such as automated barge clearing (see photo) as well as acoustic and bubble curtain barriers.

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