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Not Shocking: Power Outage Shuts Down Electric Carp Barrier

By JoshMogerman in News on May 5, 2012 8:00PM

Asian Carp = Invasive Species [jmogs]

Early Wednesday morning the juice came loose from the electric fence that stands as the last option to keep the invasive menace of Asian carp out of Lake Michigan. At 12:58 a.m., a power outage knocked the Army Corps of Engineers' electric barrier offline for 13 minutes as personnel on the site rushed to manually reset the system after backup systems failed to kick in.

An investigation is underway into the source of this, the latest in a series of carp crises. But in a week when at least a half dozen regional papers editorialized on the need for more aggressive Asian carp action, you can expect the volume to ratchet up the barrier once is once again shown to have problems. We checked in with Henry Henderson at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a former Commissioner of the Environment for the City of Chicago and prominent voice calling for a re-envisioning of the Chicago Waterways, to get his take on the incident:

"That's the problem with an electric fence; the electricity. As good as the grid's track record of reliability is, we see outages during the violent storms that have become more commonplace in recent years. The Corps needs to get serious about the hard work of figuring out how to install a permanent physical barrier into the system that addresses legitimate commercial concerns while finally stopping the movement of all invasive species between the Mississippi River system and Great Lakes; not just the big, bad Asian carp."
Henderson is not alone in this take. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow and Representative Dave Camp are promoting a bill (along with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin) in Congress that would force the Army Corps of Engineers to pick up the pace on their study of solutions to keep the carp at bay (it is not currently expected until 2015). According to the AP:

Camp and Stabenow are among critics who contend the electric barrier network is inadequate. They favor erecting solid obstacles to permanently separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds, which a study this year said would cost billions.

"While the Corps was fortunately able to respond quickly to the barrier losing power, this glitch illustrates what we already know - electric barriers and chain-link fences will not hold back Asian carp forever," Camp said.

In the meantime, other options have been floated to fend off the voracious invasive species: the Illinois General Assembly suggests shotguns; the Corps likes some fancy poisons and loud noises; and our favorites---the Peoria Carp Hunters---will surely be doing their share again soon. But they better get to work fast since fishermen pulled over 103 tons of Asian carp out of the waters south of the electric barrier March through May of last year.