The Army Corps of Engineers announced late Friday that it will release the results of a study on options for establishing a choke point to inhibit the advance of Asian carp in the Chicago waterways system.
Two years in the making, the Brandon Road Lock report was scheduled for release in February but was delayed by the Trump administration following complaints from shipping interests and Illinois’ lieutenant governor.
Pressure has been mounting for the report’s release from key members of the Great Lakes congressional delegation who began inserting provisions to force release of the study in legislation to fund the federal government for 2018.
The Army Corps advised members of congress in an email that the release date will be August 7th. Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow shared the news on Twitter attributing the delay to the Trump administration. Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur confirmed the release on her website.
Both representatives have been leading advocates for release of the study.
The Brandon Road study is an offshoot of a more comprehensive study initiated by the Obama administration that looked at a variety of options to stop Asian carp. That study, the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Inter-Basin Study, placed an emphasis on the cost and feasibility of physical separation of the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes.
But costing as much as $18 billion with a 25-year timeline made physical separation a tough sell.
On the report’s release ILL. Sen Dick Durbin dashed any hopes that it would move forward when he said, “Though popular with some, complete separation of the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan would be one of the most costly water projects in the nation. I have seen too many of these long-term Corps projects languish for years and fall victim to Congressional inaction.”
Durbin is a senior senator and is considered one of the most influential legislators in the senate. He supported release of the Brandon Road Study.
Durbin’s reservations about big infrastructure projects to fight Asian carp were echoed by ILL. Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti in a commentary in the Chicago Tribune in February.
Sanguinetti wrote that the cost for physical modifications to the Brandon Road lock were in the $270 million range plus $10 million in annual maintenance and operating expense. Implying that modifications could inhibit commercial navigation valued at $28 billion annually, she questioned “whether costs can justify purported benefits.”
Michigan’s Tim Eder told Great Lakes Now, “The release of the Brandon Road study is a welcome move that will enable the states, conservation, navigation interests and all stakeholders to evaluate the pros and cons of alternatives to prevent Asian carp and other species from advancing closer to Lake Michigan.”
Eder is Executive Director of the Great Lakes Commission and has long-been involved in facilitating research on ways to stop the carp advance.
Eder would not comment on any speculative cost estimates for physical modifications to Brandon Road.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has been a critic of the slow pace at which solutions to Asian carp evolve and he has called for immediate release of the Army Corps study.
Prior to Friday’s announcement, Snyder’s Communications Director, Ari Adler, told Great Lakes Now:
“Gov. Snyder believes we need to get all the states and the federal government to be as concerned as Michigan is about protecting the Great Lakes. There seem to be varying levels of concern and commitment to taking action, with Michiganders at the top of the list. We need others to join us if there is going to be an effective defense implemented.”
When released, the Brandon Road Lock Study will be subject to public comment and any action resulting from it will have to go through the legislative and funding processes.