Asian Carp: City Signs On to Fed Plan; Could 'Noisy Bubbles' Be A Solution?

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reportedly signed on to support a $275 million federal plan to stop Asian carp from using Chicago-area waterways such as the Chicago River system to reach Lake Michigan.

That effort by the U.S. Corp of Army Engineers includes electric fish barriers, water jets, and noisemakers at the Braden Road Lock and Dam near Joliet.

"Chicago will always do our part to safeguard the future of the Great Lakes for future generations, and we hope other Illinois leaders will step up and join us in this essential effort," Emanuel said in a statement.

Meanwhile, a Boston man's proposal to repel Asian carp with what was described as “stinging, noisy bubbles” was awarded the $200,000 first prize in a contest sponsored by the state of Michigan.

Edem Tsikata, a software consultant from Boston, was named the winner of the Great Lakes Invasive Carp Challenge created by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Tsikata told the Associated Press that the bubble wall could complement the electric barrier system on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and estimated the cost of it at about $2 million.

Four contest finalists each had 15 minutes to explain their proposed methods for keeping invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes. They then answered questions from the four-judge panel for five minutes.

Second place and $125,000 went to David Hamilton, senior policy director for the Lansing, Mich.-based environmental nonprofit The Nature Conservancy. The Detroit Free Press said his "AIS Lock Treatment System" would create a gated chamber for vessels with a chlorine-water mix which could kill a wide range of aquatic organisms, including Asian carp. Sodium bisulfate would be used to detoxify the water before it was released back into the river.

Michael Scurlock, a hydraulic engineer with RiverRestoration in Carbondale, Colo., won third place and $100,000. His approach would concentrate water flow in a lock system after vessels are moored, creating a current the carp cannot swim against.

A spokeswoman said that Michigan officials would meet with experts from the Army Corps of Engineers to talk about the proposals and their viability.

While the Asian carp has not yet been detected in the Chicago River system, Aquatic Nuisance Species like it can negatively impact the waterway by outcompeting native species for resources, food, sunlight, and oxygen.  Protecting against ANS ensures a healthier habitat for the fish, plants, and animals that make their home in and along the river. 

A diverse ecosystem benefits people too.  A river overrun by harmful invasive fish, algae, and mollusks can negatively impact native species populations, reduce aesthetic appeal for recreation, clog boat motors (in the case of the zebra mussels and algae), and cause fish kills resulting in hundreds of floating dead fish.

Fortunately, the Chicago River is healthier today than it has been in over a century.  To address the ANS issue, Friends’ staff serves on multiple committees and coalitions that actively seek to ensure that the river is protected from potential invaders. Friends advocates for a solution for ANS that protects and improves the Chicago River and its existing uses while preventing ANS from entering our river system.