Asian carp barrier near Chicago had power outage
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — An electric barrier network near Chicago designed to prevent Asian carp and other species from migrating between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River systems had a 13-minute power outage this week, officials said Friday.
The outage began at 12:58 p.m. CDT Wednesday, said Lt. Col. James Schreiner, deputy commander of the Army Corps of Engineers' Chicago district. Two of three barriers were operating at the time and both failed. Backup generators were activated, but a power surge prevented them from immediately delivering electricity to the barriers. Personnel at the site manually reset a circuit breaker to get the generators working.
The barriers emit rapid pulses to scare away fish and jolt those that don't turn back. They are located in the man-made Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal about 37 miles by water from Lake Michigan. There's no immediate indication that Asian carp or other fish advanced past the barrier during the outage, but experts are still looking into that, Schreiner said.
Officials with the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, which includes state, federal and local agencies, are investigating what caused the outage and the initial problem with the generators, he said. Also participating are representatives of ComEd — the utility that supplies electricity to the barrier — and the company that manufactured the generators.
"The corps is working extremely hard right now to bring closure to this and make improvements to the system if need be," Schreiner told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
Federal officials consider the barriers a crucial part of their strategy for preventing bighead and silver carp from invading the Great Lakes. The fish escaped from southern sewage lagoons and fish farms decades ago and have infested the Mississippi and its tributary rivers.
"These barriers are the only thing standing between the Asian carp and our Great Lakes," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat. "If carp had been able to get through while the barriers were down, it could have been absolutely devastating to our economy and our way of life."
The corps says only a few adult Asian carp, if any, are near the barrier. The largest known population is about 18 miles farther south, Schreiner said.
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