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Group favors rebuilding berms at marsh

DNA from silver carp one two Asian species threatening GreLakes was found samples drawn from Lake Calumet. |  File

DNA from silver carp, one of the two Asian species threatening the Great Lakes, was found in samples drawn from Lake Calumet. | File photo

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Updated: November 25, 2012 9:45PM



FORT WAYNE, Ind. — A group that oversees a marsh straddling the Great Lakes and Ohio River basins favors rebuilding a berm to control the spread of Asian carp and other invasive species, one of its leaders says.

Six of the nine options for Eagle Marsh presented by the Army Corps of Engineers this month call for building a wall, a fence, screens or sluice gates to keep species from jumping from one basin to the other.

However, Betsy Yankowiak, director of preserves for the Little River Wetlands Project, which oversees the marsh, said the group favors two options that would tear down and rebuild a berm to federal standards because they use a structure already in place and present the least amount of long-term change to the area.

“They’re already in the landscape, wildlife is already used to a berm being there, so it’s not going to disrupt their traffic patterns,” Yankowiak told the Journal Gazette for a story published Sunday .

In late 2010, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources built a temporary fence across the marsh to prevent the migration of Asian carp, a voracious fish that has invaded the Mississippi River basin. The Ohio River empties into the Mississippi.

The eastern half of Eagle Marsh, on Fort Wayne’s southwest side, drains into the Great Lakes by way of Junk Ditch, the St. Marys River and the Maumee River. The western half of the marsh drains into the Mississippi by way of the Graham-McCulloch Ditch, the Little River, the Wabash River and the Ohio River.

Flooding in Fort Wayne can cause Junk Ditch to flow backward and overland through Eagle Marsh into the Graham-McCulloch Ditch, allowing species to move from one basin to the other. The berm that the Army Corps has proposed rebuilding lines one side of the Graham-McCulloch Ditch.

The nine options in a report released by the corps earlier this month range in estimated cost from $2.4 million to $20.2 million. The two options that call for rebuilding the berm would cost an estimated $5.5 million or $7.7 million. There’s no funding currently to pay for any of the nine options.

Yankowiak said the Asian carp has received the most attention, but many other invasive species also that could jump from one basin to the other.

“Behind the Asian carp are 40 other invasive species storming up the Wabash toward the Great Lakes,” she said. “And there are 160 invasive species in the Great Lakes that could threaten the Mississippi basin.”

The biggest priority for containment, the report said, is not the Asian carp at all, but a virus known as viral hemorrhagic septicemia.

That would appear to rule out many of the options because they would not stop a virus when the waters mix. A wall or the rebuilt berm would create physical barriers to prevent the waters from mixing.

The Army Corps will hold a public meeting on the report at 5 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Allen County Main Public Library. A 60-day public comment period began Nov. 16 and ends Jan 14.



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