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Biggert & Durbin Introduce Bill to Authorize Asian Carp Barrier Projects

Location: Washington, DC

Biggert & Durbin Introduce Bill to Authorize Asian Carp Barrier Projects

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-IL) today introduced legislation to authorize funding for the Asian Carp barriers in the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal.

Asian carp, an invasive species, threaten the Great Lakes ecosystem by consuming large quantities of phytoplankton and competing with native fish for habitat. Originally, asian carp were introduced to the United States as a management tool for aqua culture farms and sewage treatment facilities. The carp have made their way north to the Illinois River after escaping from fish farms during massive flooding along the Mississippi River. Asian carp can grow to an average of four feet and 60 pounds, and can consume up to 40 percent of their body weight in plankton per day.

"The carp approaching the northern section of the Illinois River and Lake Michigan have no natural predators. This invasive species threatens both the native fish and natural wildlife of the lake and in turn, the economy of the entire Great Lakes region," said Durbin. "The $400,000 we secured in last year's emergency spending bill provided us with an immediate remedy to the threat of Barrier I getting shut down. Today, Congressman Biggert and I introduced legislation that will address the long term solution that will help us avert a potentially devastating situation."

"By lifting funding and other limitations on the barrier project, the bills Senator Durbin and I introduced today will enable the Corps to fortify this last line of defense against the voracious Asian Carp," said Biggert. "The Great Lakes are one of our most important natural resources. The Asian Carp won't wait for Congress to act. I look forward to working with Senator Durbin and others to get this legislation enacted as soon as possible."

The legislation will authorize the Corps of Engineers to:

Complete construction on a permanent barrier (Barrier II)

Upgrade and make permanent the original demonstration barrier (Barrier I)

Operate Barriers I & II simultaneously to optimize effectiveness

Study options and technologies to prevent the spread of this invasive species

The demonstration barrier in the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal was authorized in 1996 under the National Invasive Species Act to prevent non-native species like the Asian carp from moving between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. Since this barrier was designed to be temporary and is close to the end of its expected service life, a second permanent barrier is being constructed.

In June, 2006 Durbin and Obama worked to successfully secure $400,000 to operate the barriers that prevent invasive species from entering the Great Lakes. Twenty-eight other Great Lakes House Members joined Biggert in sending a letter to House appropriators in support of this effort. The funding was included to pay for the operation of Barrier I, a temporary barrier that keeps the invasive species out of the Illinois River and Lake Michigan by emitting an electric current that deters the carp from passing through. Funding to maintain the operation of Barrier I has been almost entirely depleted and the Corps of Engineers indicated that without additional funding they would have to shut down the temporary barrier.

Durbin was a member of the conference committee between the House and Senate versions on the emergency spending bill where the provision to fund Barrier I was added. The bill was signed into law on June 15th, 2006.

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