Army Is Creating a 'Zone of Chaos' for Invasive Carp

They hope acoustic, bubble, and electric barriers will keep them out of Lake Michigan
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2022 2:15 PM CST
Army Is Creating a 'Zone of Chaos' for Invasive Carp
Asian carp, jolted by an electric current from a research boat, jump from the Illinois River near Havana, Ill.   (AP Photo/John Flesher, File)

The US Army Corps of Engineers wants to send a message to invasive carp trying to enter the Great Lakes through Chicago-area waterways: Welcome to Hell. The Biden administration has released funding for a project that will create a "zone of chaos" for the unwanted fish, reports. Kevin Irons at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources says one deterrent will be speakers in the water blasting noise designed to turn the carp. He says they haven't settled on the best noise for the acoustic barrier yet, but it will probably be white noise instead of music or boat engine sounds.

The Brandon Road Interbasin Project, at a site near Joliet that engineers have identified as a critical pinch point for fish movement, will also include a curtain of bubbles rising from a pipe at the bottom of the waterway. Larger fish that make it past the bubble barrier will be jolted by an electric barrier. Authorities say mariners passing through the zone will be required to stay inside their vessel's pilot house to reduce the risk of anybody falling into the charged water. The plan also includes a flushing lock, designed to send floating fish eggs back downstream, and public outreach programs. Officials already offer bounties on invasive fish in Illinois rivers—the rarest of the four problem species is the black carp and to keep it that way, a bounty of $100 per fish is offered.

The Biden administration has awarded $225 million to complete the design and engineering phase and begin construction. The project will have an eventual price tag of around $850 million, and authorities say it could prevent a huge hit to the region's economy. If voracious species like the silver and bighead carp invade the Great Lakes, "it would decimate the economic vitality of the region, commercial sport fishing (by) $7 billion annually," says Marc Smith at the National Wildlife Federation, per WTTW. "We are talking about a mega economic engine that could be completely rattled by carp." (More invasive species stories.)

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