The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) is a man-made waterway that connects the Chicago River and the Des Plaines River, which creates the only hydraulic connection between Lake Michigan and the
River basins . As non-indigenous aquatic species use the CSSC to move from the Mississippi River to the
Great Lakes and vice versa, they prey on native species and compete for food, living space, and spawning areas. Currently the largest concern is the potential movement of Asian carp into Lake Michigan, the doorway to the
Great Lakes .
The National Invasive Species Act (NISA) of 1990, as amended in 1996, authorized the Corps to conduct a demonstration project to identify an environmentally sound method for preventing and reducing the dispersal of non-indigenous aquatic nuisance species through the CSSC. USACE formed a partnership with an Advisory Panel, consisting of people from
U.S. , international, state, and regional agencies; environmental groups; canal users; and researchers, to evaluate potential methods to restrict movement of aquatic species through the CSSC. An electric demonstration barrier was selected because it is a non-lethal deterrent that does not interfere with navigation in the canal. It has been in operation since April 2002. This barrier is formed of steel cables that are secured to the bottom of the canal. A low-voltage, pulsating DC current is sent through the cables, creating an electric field in the water. The electric field is uncomfortable for the fish and they stop movement forward. The electric field is safe in case of human contact. The demonstration barrier has been monitored and evaluated for performance and safety in collaboration with the EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service, Coast Guard, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, State of Illinois, City of
Chicago , Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and the navigation industry.
In 2004, the USACE, in partnership with the State of
Illinois , initiated construction of a permanent barrier approximately 1000 feet from the demonstration barrier. The permanent barrier will have a similar electric field, but will cover a larger area within the CSSC, have a longer service life, and include design improvements identified during monitoring and testing of the demonstration barrier. It is being constructed in two stages. The first phase of construction is underway and will be completed by June 2005. The second stage will be completed and the barrier will be fully operational by the end of September 2005. USACE has also kept the locals engaged through the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force established by E.O. 13340 dated May 2004.