If the Asian reach the Great Lakes, it’s all over.
Two years ago, the US Army Corps of Engineers approved a $778 million request to fund the battle against this bugle-mouthed menace, and now they’ve set aside another $226 million. That just north of $1 billion to stop an ugly fish.
The Asian carp is a voracious monster of a freshwater fish, like a freshwater warthog. Up to 4-feet long, it can weigh over 90 pounds and live 40 years. Its ability to survive is legendary; it could (almost) thrive in a pool of diesel fuel. It can tolerate high salinity, low temperatures, and low oxygen. leap six feet into the air and eat virtually anything it can fit in its greedy mouth. How greedy? An adult will eat 20% of its body weight every day.
It doesn’t kill other fish directly, but, like a coward, through starvation and attrition. Once it reaches a body of water, it simply gulps down the food supply and reproduces, happily laying native aquatic populations to waste. The entire ecosystem of the Illinois River and Des Plaines River has suffered under the siege of the Asian carp, and now this fish is knockin’ on the door of the Great Lakes.
Time is running out. According to the US Army, the reconnaissance arm of the Asian carp population is less than 50 miles from Lake Michigan, and inching closer every day.
Luckily, the Army has access to a strategic bottleneck at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the Des Plaines River, just southwest of Joilet, Illinois. With funds from Congress, here’s a top secret preview of the latest in fat, floppy fish area-denial technology that we shall train on these beasts:
—A mighty air-bubble curtain, which confuses the monsters with fizzy bubbles.
—Installed underwater speakers designed to blast curious Asian carp with uncomfortably loud noises.
—The addition of more powerful electric barriers, which deliver a nasty shock
—Water cannons above the electric barriers, which deliver a steady jet of water strong enough to knock back an 80 pound carp mid-leap.
The Asian carp is real. The threat to the Great Lakes is real. The choke-point at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam is real, but carefully codenamed The Brandon Road Lock and Dam Project to disguise its purpose and location, just in case these beasts learn to read.
(That’s a joke).
The US Army Corps of Engineers has done all it can, and patiently awaits our Congress to loosen its purse strings. They received a portion of the funding in January of 2021, amounting to about $20 million. A year later (January, 2022), the Army contributed another $226 million to the project. While that’s a fantastic start, anything less than the full amount is a waste. You can’t block half a waterway.
The Great Lakes stand among the greatest of US resources, commercially, recreationally, and culturally. With this as risk, it is no longer time for half-measures in combatting the menacing plague of the Asian carp.
Anti-Asian carp advocate Senator Debbie Stabenow (D—Lansing) believes this report and recommendation is the solution needed to protect American ecosystems not just now, but for generations to come, by crushing the Asian carp. “Most importantly,” said the senator, “this report gives Congress what it needs to authorize funding for the project and finally advance a much-needed, long-term solution.”
In other words, do it right the first time, for all time.
How urgent is this? In 2017, an Asian carp was found only 9 miles from Lake Michigan. So, yeah, pretty urgent.