Cooperatove Conservation Project

Aquatic Nuisance Species Dispersal Barrier Project

Electrifying Fish Story

Location: Midwest/Northern High Plains Region: Illinois

Project Summary: Implemented electric barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to deter the inter-basin transfer of invasive fish between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River.
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Resource Challenge

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 Mississippi 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. 

Examples of Key Partners

The table below lists all of the partners who have participated in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Aquatic Nuisance Species Dispersal Barrier Project. The state, regional, municipal, industrial and academic members are all local partners.



U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Illinois Department of Natural Resources:

- Chicago District

- Illinois Natural History Survey

- Rock Island District

- Department of Natural Resources

- Waterway Experiment Station

- Office of Water Resources

- Construction Engineering Research Lab.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Illinois Pollution Control Board

- Great Lakes National Program Office

Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources

- Water Division

Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources

U.S. Geological Survey

Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources

- Biological Resources Division

Mississippi Interstate Conservation 

U.S. Coast Guard

    Resource Association


International Joint Commission

Consulate General of Canada

Great Lakes Fishery Commission

University of Windsor

Regional, Municipal, Industrial & Academic

Illinois International Port Authority

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program

Illinois River Carriers Association

University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute

University of Michigan

University of Illinois

Loyola University

Smith-Root, Inc.

Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council

Midwest Generation

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District 

Commonwealth Edison

Ecological Monitoring and Assessment

Lake Michigan Federation

City of Chicago Dept. of Environment

Great Lakes Protection Fund

Northeast Midwest Institute

Great Lakes Commission

Habitat Solutions

Friends of the Chicago River


Results and Accomplishments
By assembling and regularly consulting the Advisory Panel, USACE was able to receive input from all stakeholders on barrier needs and concerns, identify the most acceptable barrier alternatives, receive support from a large team of experts on project planning and design, identify and utilize multiple authorities and funding sources, and accelerate the planning and construction of the barriers. Planning on the permanent barrier was initiated in September 2002 and is on schedule to be constructed and fully operational approximately three years later. USACE continues to meet regularly with the Advisory Panel to obtain their input on the design, operation, and monitoring of the barriers and identify other potential means of stopping the spread of aquatic nuisance species through the CSSC. 

Threatening Asian Carp accelerated design and construction of the largest in-water electric barrier. Design was changing as lessons were learned from the demonstration project.

Project Contact
Gene Fleming
Chief, Environmental Formulation and Analysis Section, Planning Branch
US Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District
111 North Canal St, Suite 600
Chicago, IL 60606-7206
(312) 846-5585
Chuck Shea
Project Manager, Planning and Program Management Division
US Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District
111 North Canal St, Suite 600
Chicago, IL 60606-7206
(312) 846-5568

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