New Efforts to Keep Carp Out

The efforts to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan are moving to a new level.

The Army Corps of Engineers wants to build a barrier in the Des Plaines River at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet. It would be considerably cheaper and easier than the permanent separation of the Chicago waterway system from the lake, which other Great Lake states and environmentalists have said is the ultimate solution.

The total separation of the waterways would disrupt the barge industry and local firms that depend on it, not to mention that particular project boasts a  price tag ranging upwards of $25 billion.

The proposed barrier would use high-speed water circulation or other technology and is expected to cost roughly $25 million.

“Some of the alternatives had in mind this Brandon Road site,” said Dave Wethington, project manager at the Army Corps of Engineers in Chicago.

If it works, the proposed barrier would keep Asian carp and other unwanted species from getting to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, where the only thing stopping them from getting to Lake Michigan is an older barrier built by the corps about five miles east that tries to block fish by electrifying the water. This old fashion barrier has been deemed as inadequate by critics.

“The electronic barrier is robust, but we’re looking at other technologies as well,” Wethington added. “There’s going to be some residual risk, no matter what kind of controls are put in place.”

The problem is that carp eggs can drift undeterred through an electric barrier, while the proposed barrier would keep free-floating organisms out.

That barrier also would stop Asian carp from getting to the point where the Des Plaines River and the Sanitary Canal meet. Recent studies have shown that during heavy rains the river could overflow its banks, allowing fish to move into the canal.

According to Wethington, the plan will require an environment impact statement, including potential cost, which is expected to be in the ballpark of the cost of the electric barrier in the canal, or roughly $25 million.

The first step will be two public comment sessions at Argonne National Laboratory in south suburban Lemont Dec. 6 and at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago Dec. 9.

Welcome Baby 184!

The world’s first test-tube penguin, baby 184, has been welcomed into the world. Although still unnamed, baby Magellanic penguin was hatched at Sea World 12 weeks ago, but just this week pictures were released. She was the first penguin to be born through artificial insemination. This technique will allow researchers help increase diversity in the penguin population. The baby penguin is reportedly doing well mingling with the natural-born penguin population. She has transitioned from being hand-fed to eating her own fish.

Sea World has used artificial insemination on many animals before, but this has been the first time it worked on a penguin. Sea World’s reproductive center Scientific Director Dr. Justine O’Brien says that you can’t tell the difference that the baby penguin was artificially inseminated as apart from being naturally born.

Joliet Snow Removal Contracts

On Tuesday, the Joliet City Council is set to vote on two snow removal contracts for this winter, totaling $97,000.  At Monday night’s pre-council meeting the topic was added to the agenda for Tuesday night.

If the vote is approved, two separate contracts will be awarded to two local companies: one to clear snow in downtown lots, parking decks, and sidewalks over the Des Plaines River bridges, and another to remove snow from train platforms, sidewalks, and commuter lots near Union Station.

According to a memo from City Manager Jim Hock, Joliet is estimated to experience about 15 snow events this winter season. Last winter high snowfall and bitter temperatures caused citywide issues like snow packed cul-de-sacs and frozen water pipe repairs.

Joliet received nearly 60 inches of snowfall last year more than tripling the previous year. The 2012-13-winter season only experienced 18 inches of snowfall while the 2010-11 season experienced 34.2 inches of snow.

Georges Landscaping, a Joliet based business, will be awarded the city center contract this year. Their bid was the lowest offered at $3,484 per snow event. Georges Landscaping also submitted a supplemental salting-only bid at $2,280.

New Lenox based CMJ Construction won the Union Station contract with a bid of $1,948 per snowfall, while offering salting for only $849 per event.