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Health, Science and Environment

Authorization moves forward on massive project to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes

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Authorization for a nearly $800-million dollar project to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes passed out of the US House on Tuesday.

The authorization, if approved by the Senate and signed by the President, would allow funds for the project to be appropriated at a later date.

In a statement, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell called the passage out of the house “a significant milestone and something the region advocated for nearly a decade.”

Environmental groups have long warned that if the Asian Carp are able to establish themselves in the great lakes the impact to local ecosystems would be devastating.

Marc Smith is with the National Wildlife Federation. He said all of this rests on Illinois signing a design agreement with the US Army Corps of Engineers to move the project forward - a step that hasn’t happened yet.

“Technically right now without this design agreement, there is no project,” he said. “Federal dollars cannot be released to the corps to do the project because there is no agreement. That is the key part.”

Smith said it’s not clear what is taking Illinois so long to sign onto the agreement.

“What has been holding it up is just the final signing of this agreement between the Corps of Engineers and the state of Illinois to begin the preconstruction engineering and design phase,” he said.

Smith said all of this is concerning because even if the design agreement moves forward it could still take two years for actual construction to begin.

“And that’s on a very tight timeline,” he said. “So that’s why we’ve been screaming pretty loudly to get moving on this. The longer we wait, the more problematic it’s going to become and it’s going to put more risk on the Great Lakes.”

The office of the Illinois Governor did not respond to our request for comment.