A plan to block Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes could cost Illinois taxpayers much more than expected.
An updated proposal comes with a $778 million price tag, up from a previous estimate of $275 million.
The state of Illinois could be responsible for up to 35-percent of the total, but Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti said that’s not all.
“Then there’s also operations and maintenance,” Sanguinetti said. “That’s millions each year we must pay in perpetuity, meaning forever.”
The report, from the Army Corps of Engineers, is part of an effort to stop the invasive carp from become established in the Great Lakes. Experts warn carp could squeeze out native species and harm the region's $7 billion fishing industry.
The recommended plan includes additional noise barriers, electric barriers, and a flushing lock system at the Brandon Road Lock near Joliet. That site previously was identified as the optimal choke point to halt the carp from advancing.
“There are a lot of bells and whistles that are going to come into play,” Sanguinetti said. “The question we must ask ourselves is what sort of threat, if any, does that pose to our ecosystem. While we’re trying to get rid of Asian carp as an invasive species, what does that have to say for the other species?”
Shipping in the Chicago area waterways could be slowed during construction. Sanguinetti said many private-sector industries also are concerned about what this could mean for them.
“At the end of the day, we want our decisions to be science-driven,” Sanguinetti said. “We want to be able to articulate to the people of the state of Illinois that any sort of price tag that we sell to our people is founded in science.”
The Lieutenant Governor says Illinois has been working on the problem for years. She said she's proud of the efforts of the Department of Natural Resources to address the issue by fishing carp out of local waterways.
“They’ve been able to eliminate this species to the tune of 93-percent in the Dresden Island Pool, which is where most Asian carp lie,” Sanguinetti said.
The report will be open for public comment until Dec. 24 and must be finalized by a February 2019 deadline.