Ohio, Indiana planning to dike Eagle Marsh against Asian carp
By Jane Beathard
State and federal wildlife officials hope an earthen dike across Eagle Marsh in northern Indiana will permanently prevent Asian carp and other dangerous invasive species from entering the Great Lakes via that strategic wetland.
Eagle Marsh, located between the Maumee and Wabash rivers, straddles the Ohio River and Great Lakes watersheds. A 2010 study showed seasonal flooding made it the second most-likely pathway for voracious Asian carp to move out of the Ohio River into the lakes. The Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal, connecting the Illinois River with Lake Michigan, is first on the list of most-likely crossover points.
The Maumee River flows northward to Lake Erie near Eagle Marsh, while the Wabash River flows south to the Ohio River .
The Indiana DNR erected a two-inch, chain link fence across the 700-acre marsh in September 2010 as a barrier against invading carp. An augmenting dike would not only bar Asian carp from the Great Lakes, but also smaller invasives as well.
“It’s about things that are not here yet,” said Rich Carter, fish management administrator for the Ohio DNR.
Carter attended a Jan. 30 meeting in Indiana to discuss nine alternatives for permanently closing Eagle Marsh. A dike, capable of withstanding a 100-year flood, was selected as the best solution.
The proposed structure will actually upgrade a lower, aging levee that is already a feature of the marsh, said Doug Keller of the Indiana DNR.
That 6,000-foot levee is actually discarded “spoil” from ditch construction in the 1900s. It is riddled with tree roots and animal dens.
“It’s in very poor condition and could fail at any time,” Keller said.
Plans are to rebuild the levee to modern engineering standards and raise its berm. However, increased height will likely lead to flooding on the Ft. Wayne side of the dike. The project will require a buy-out of the flood-prone land before construction begins, Keller added.
Engineers with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will work with the Indiana DNR to design the new dike. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and The Nature Conservancy are also involved, Keller said.
He could not estimate construction cost, but is looking for federal money from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program. Target date for completion is the end of 2014.
Senate Bill 125, sponsored by Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman in January, aims to coordinate efforts by federal wildlife agencies to stop the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes. It is currently under consideration by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act will support to state and local governments seeking to suppress or eliminate the carp threat. However, it remains unclear if that support will include federal funding.
“There’s no discussion of a funding source right now,” Carter said.
It also remains unclear how looming federal budget cuts or “sequestration” will affect financial support for a wide spectrum of environmental programs — including those to control invasive species.