Michigan proposes partnership to help pay for new Asian carp controls

Michigan has 3,000 miles of coastline and more Great Lakes water within its jurisdiction than any other state or province in the basin. But one of the big ecological threats to this freshwater system is well outside the state’s borders — in Illinois and Indiana, where invasive species of Asian carp would be most likely to enter the Great Lakes basin, via the Chicago Area Waterway System.

“It’s not just the Great Lakes that are at risk; it’s all of the tributaries as well as our inland lakes,” says Tammy Newcombe, a senior water policy adviser for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan wants another layer of protection to prevent an Asian carp invasion — namely, the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to install a mix of new structural and nonstructural barriers at the Brandon Road Lock & Dam in Joliet, Ill. The construction price tag for this “temporarily selected plan” is $275 million, plus ongoing annual costs of $11 million for nonstructural activities (such as monitoring and fishing Asian carp out of the Illinois River) and $8 million for operation and maintenance of the structural barriers.
Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Snyder proposed that all of the Great Lakes states (along with Ontario) collectively pay for that $8 million in operations costs. His idea is for each jurisdiction to pitch in a percentage equal to its share of total Great Lakes surface water (see table). For example, 40.7 percent of the lakes’ surface water is in Michigan; that state would, in turn, provide $3.3 million of the $8 million.
The Army Corps has identified 2025 as the year in which new controls at Brandon Road could be fully operational. But for that to happen, many questions still must be addressed. For example, will the Corps choose the “temporarily selected plan” as its final plan? (An agency decision was expected this year, after a public comment period in late 2017.) Will the U.S. Congress authorize funding for work at Brandon Road, and if so, will a “nonfederal sponsor” be required?
A “nonfederal sponsor” would typically be a host state or one its political subdivisions. However, Illinois opposes the Corps’ plan and does not want a new electric barrier installed at Brandon Road. In a December 2017 letter to the federal agency, Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti said the plan lacks “adequate scientific justification” and would disrupt navigation, potentially causing “irreparable economic harm to regional industries that depend on the $28 billion of commodities transported along the Illinois River every year."
According to Sanguinetti, the state would support a scaled-back plan that focuses on increased commercial fishing and processing of Asian carp and that adds some new structural controls (but not an electric barrier) — provided that the federal government fully funds construction and ongoing operations and maintenance.
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Stateline Midwest: March 20182.88 MB