Chicago - Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said a few weeks ago they would turn on their new electric carp barrier by the end of the month, but the agency scrapped those plans Wednesday because of unforeseen maintenance issues on a largely unused contraption that is now nearly three years old.
The barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was completed in the spring of 2006, but the Army Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard have been wrestling since then over safety issues tied to electrifying a waterway that is heavily used by barges, some of which carry flammable materials.
After years of tests and safety measures that have totaled about $1 million, both agencies say they are now satisfied the barrier can be activated without posing an unreasonable risk to boaters.
The barrier is considered the best hope to keep the oversized Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes, but it won't be turned on until engineers can replace a set of defective cooling pipes.
Installing new pipes is expected to take a couple of months, and the hope is that the $9 million device will be turned on sometime in mid to late March.
In the meantime, a nearby smaller and weaker "demonstration barrier" that was built in 2002 will remain the only defense for the Great Lakes. Read more.
For more information about the threat of Asian carp to the Great Lakes and efforts to stop them, such as the barrier, visit the Illinois Aquatic Invasive Species Program website.