Invasive Carp Project Faces Potential Delays

The Brandon Road project promises to help stop the spread of invasive carp in the Great Lakes.

If you live in the upper Midwest, you certainly know about the negative impacts that aquatic invasive species have on our Great Lakes, the fishery and our quality of life. From undermining our ecological and economic vibrancy to threatening our outdoor recreation experiences, invasive species are a persistent and unique problem costing the U.S. billions of dollars annually. Ship-borne invasive species cost the Great Lakes region alone an average of $138 million every year. The Brandon Road project has the potential to relieve some of this burden by reducing the spread of invasive carp.

The most notorious is the invasive carp. Look up invasive carp on YouTube and you will quickly understand why we want to keep them out of the Great Lakes. After many years of working towards finalizing the Brandon Road project to stop their spread, unfortunately we have hit a major snag that could further delay our progress and ultimately allow carp to swim closer to our Great Lakes. How did we get here?

Brandon Road Project

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has identified retrofitting the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, IL, with a series of control measures aimed at preventing the upstream movement of invasive carp. The U.S. Congress authorized the project with a cost share of 90% federal and 10% non-federal funding. Illinois and Michigan are contributing the non-federal funding. The design phase of the project is almost complete and the first construction contracts along with breaking ground on the project are currently expected in 2024.

Funding Status of Brandon Road Project Partnership Agreement

Split between the U.S. Congress, the USACE, Illinois and Michigan, there is enough money available to fund the remaining federal portion of the design phase and the first year of construction at Brandon Road. However, none of this funding is available for the USACE to use for project construction until Illinois signs a construction partnership agreement with the USACE. Once these funds run out, work will come to a halt. Any further delays will push back the construction start date.

The primary delay in signing the partnership agreement is due to the potential for hazardous materials contamination on the lands owned by Midwest Generation. Midwest Generation owns approximately 42 acres adjacent to the Brandon Road project and 3.6 acres of these lands are needed as a staging area for project construction. Analysis by staff from MI, IL, and USACE show that the risk of contamination is low. There are certainly solutions to mitigate this low risk by capping the soil among other remedies. There is a way to a “yes” on this project, however, Illinois and the Corps are at a standstill. 

Pressure needed to finalize the Project

We need all voices to raise the urgency of this. You can help by calling/emailing your Member of Congress to ask them to continue to pressure the state of Illinois and the USACE to unblock the log jam and advance this critical project by encouraging them to sign the construction partnership agreement for Brandon Road. If Illinois does not sign this agreement, carp could make it into the Great Lakes. Now is the time for action. We are at the goal line: let’s finish the project.