FORT WAYNE – The Obama administrations plan to halt the spread of invasive Asian carp to the Great Lakes includes rebuilding an earthen berm in Eagle Marsh.
It is among a dozen projects and programs announced Wednesday that will strengthen our defenses against Asian carp and move innovative carp control projects from research to field trials to implementation, John Goss, Asian carp director for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in a written statement.
A council spokesman said the huge fish have been found 30 miles southwest of Eagle Marsh in the Wabash River, which links to the marsh through the Little River and Graham-McCulloch Ditch.
The marsh connects to Junk Ditch and ultimately the Maumee River, which feeds Lake Erie.
Eagle Marsh stewards prefer a reconstructed berm over other carp-control options – a wall, fencing, screens and various combinations of barriers – that have been considered by the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers.
The berm along Graham-McCulloch Ditch on the southwest outskirts of Fort Wayne is an existing structure in our nature preserve, and so wildlife and migrations are used to that structure being there, said Betsy Yankowiak, director of preserves and programs for the Little River Wetlands Project, a nonprofit organization that owns the marsh.
Little River has been involved in the planning process from the very beginning, she said.
The berm stretches more than 9,000 feet and is roughly 8 feet tall for much of its length, Yankowiak said. The rebuilt levee would be taller and stronger in an effort to contain floodwaters that could allow invasive species such as Asian carp to roam to Lake Erie.
Its going to be a significant structure compared to whats there now, Yankowiak said.
The White House plan would raise the berm 2 feet higher than the 100-year flood level. Eagle Marsh flooding has approached 10 feet, according to a study by the Army Corps of Engineers, and Yankowiak said the ditch has flooded twice since mid-April.
The existing ditch wall is not structurally sound and is predicted to fail at some future time without correction, the White House plan stated.
Rebuilding the Graham-McCulloch Ditch berm is expected to cost $5.7 million to $7.2 million, Yankowiak said, depending on whether both banks of the ditch are altered. The project will require public input and permits from local, state and federal authorities, she said.
Eagle Marsh is generally bordered by Interstate 69, Fox Island County Park, Engle Road and a Jefferson Boulevard commercial area. The wetland was among three carp-control priorities highlighted Wednesday by the Council on Environmental Quality, along with improving the electric barrier system in the Chicago Area Waterway System and developing physical and chemical tools to combat the fish.
Asian carp can reach 7 feet long, weigh more than 100 pounds and jump 10 feet above the water surface, according to the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee. They compete with native fish for food and grow too large to be pursued by predatory fish or birds.
The algae-eating carp were imported to the Southern U.S. to clean fish farms and retention ponds, then rode floodwaters into river systems, multiplied and migrated.
Research by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the University of Notre Dame has turned up no signs of Asian carp in or around Eagle Marsh, Yankowiak said.
The DNR installed a nearly 1,200-foot long chain-link fence in Eagle Marsh in 2010 to guard the Maumee River from the fish. Under the White House plan, the fence will remain in place after the Graham-McCulloch Ditch berm is rebuilt.