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Army Corps: Electric Barrier May Need Higher Charge To Halt Asian Carp

Asian Carp

In concentrated numbers, the leaping Asian carp pose significant danger to boaters navigating the open rivers. But from a purely ecological standpoint, the non-native carp feed primarily on plankton and bacteria, collapsing the food chain. (Credit: CBS)

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ROMEOVILLE, Ill. (CBS) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to boost the charge on electric fences designed to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, Maj. Gen. John Peabody, Great Lakes director for the corps, said he believes the fish fences near Romeoville have been effective, and safe for people on the canal banks and in passing boats, even though the charge is high enough to kill someone who fell in the water right near a fence.

“In the nine years we’ve been operating the barrier, we have not had any safety incidents associated with people working in or near the canal,” he said.

But Peabody says lab tests indicate that a higher charge would be more effective. The test shows that Asian carp babies, or fry, are far less affected than adults by the charge on the electric fish fence.

The corps also reports DNA tests for locating Asian carp are good, but need refinement to indicate how many fish there are, and whether they’re alive or dead.

Several states bordering the Great Lakes are not satisfied with the electric barriers. Last week, attorneys general from six states – Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania – issued a letter asking colleagues along the Mississippi River to encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to close the Sanitary and Ship Canal.

The attorneys general asked 27 additional states to join a lobbying campaign to separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River Basin, contending they have as much to lose as the Great Lakes do from migration of aquatic plants and animals that can do billions in economic damage and starve out native species.

A complete study of the effectiveness of the electric barriers in place is expected to be done by 2015.

Although Asian carp DNA has been found in Lake Michigan, only one actual Asian carp has been found on the lake side of the electronic barriers to date, in Lake Calumet.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)