An electric barrier near Chicago designed to prevent Asian carp and other invasive species from migrating between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River system had a 13-minute power outage this week, officials said Friday.
It happened Wednesday, according to the Army Corps of Engineers' Lt. Col. James Schreiner. Two barriers were operating at the time, and the power to both failed, Schreiner said. Backup systems also failed. Crews rushed to fix them, but the complete outage did leave a brief window for the voracious Asian carp to make its way into the Great Lakes.
It's unclear if any carp actually made it past the barrier. Schreiner said experts are looking into that, as well as what caused the outage.
This is the second outage of the electric fence that serves as the final barrier between the Asian carp and the Great Lakes. The fence is designed to send out electrical pulses to scare fish away, and zap those that come too close. Ecologists and fishermen fear that if the invasive carp makes its way into the Great Lakes, the ravenous eaters will destroy the balance of wildlife in the lakes.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Rep. David Camp, both of Michigan, told The Associated Press about the outage prior to an official announcement.
"While the Corps was fortunately able to respond quickly to the barrier losing power, this glitch illustrates what we already know - electric barriers and chain-link fences will not hold back Asian carp forever," Camp said.
Stabenow and Camp are co-sponsoring bills that would order the corps to speed up development of a plan to prevent migrations between the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds. It's scheduled for release in late 2015. The corps and other agencies have identified 39 species that could slip from one drainage basin to the other and disrupt native ecosystems.