Letter to the Army Corps of Engineers expressing concerns over the recent power failure at the electric barriers that protect the Great Lakes from the Asian carp

May 18, 2012

Dear Assistant Secretary Darcy:

As representatives of the Great Lakes region, we wish to express our extreme concerns about the May 2 failure of the U.s. Army Corps of Engineers’ Electric Dispersal Barriers in the Chicago.  For thirteen minutes, Asian Carp were completely unimpeded from moving through the Chicago Waterway System into Lake Michigan.  The potential ramifications of such a failure could prove catastrophic to the fragile Great Lakes ecosystem.  An infiltration of Asian Carp would imperil a thriving, $7 billion fishery.

Given the magnitude of such consequences, we request the following information:

  1. A detailed reporting of all contributing factors that caused the Electric Dispersal Barrier System to shut down and remain off-line for thirteen minutes;

  2. An explanation of possible corrective actions and system improvement, such as more frequent testing of the backup generator system or a secondary backup;

  3. A description of how anticipated failure of mechanical barriers are calculated in assessing the costs and benefits of various options considered in the Great Lakes Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS).

This event illustrates the susceptibility of the Electric Dispersal Barriers to significant problems.  Power outages are regrettably common and even the most advanced machines fail.  A viable solution to preventing the movement of invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds should not allow for such likely failure.

The Electric Dispersal Barriers were designed and installed as a short-term solution to the pressing threat of Asian Carp invading the Great Lakes.  Consequently, the Army Corps of Engineers continues to undertake the important GLMRIS study to examine long-term options.  It is our hope that in the face of such a concerning failure, valuable insight may be gleaned in evaluating a proper long-term solution.  We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Reps. Marcy Kaptur, Justin Amash, Dan Benishek, Dave Camp, Hansen Clarke, John Conyers, John Dingell, Sean Duffy, Marcia Fudge, Brian Higgins, Maurice Hinchey, Bill Huizenga, Bill Johnson, Mike Kelly, Dale Kildee, Steven LaTourette, Robert Latta, Sander Levin, Thaddeus McCotter, Candice Miller, William Owens, Gary Peters, Mike Quigley, Mike Rogers, Tim Ryan, Janice Schakowsky, Louise Slaughter, Betty Sutton, Fred Upton, Tim Walberg