Carp creations, Michigan money gets state’s attention

By Kevin Beese Staff reporter

An Asian carp jumps out of the water. The state of Illinois is offering fish processors and makers of Asian carp products financial help with market development and sales. Asian carp is an invasive species in the Great Lakes region that eats up to 40 percent of its body weight in plants every day. (Photo by Ted Lawrence, Great Lakes Fishery Commission)

Illinois is taking a carp-e diem approach to its underwater nemesis.

The state is looking to seize the day by helping companies hawk Asian carp products and trying to convince another Midwestern state to provide carp-fighting funds two decades early.

Grant funds are being offered to companies and individuals interested in expanding demand for food and other products, using Asian carp caught in Illinois waters. The state grants are to assist in firms’ marketing efforts.

The grants are available through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Asian Carp Market Value Program to support Asian carp processors and product-makers in expanding markets and developing new markets and sales opportunities for Asian carp.

“One of the best ways to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp is to reduce the population of the invasive species, and our governments spend millions of dollars each year to remove these fish from our rivers,” Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said. “This grant program will give our fishing industry incentives to harvest even more Asian carp by expanding and creating new markets for the fish. The end result will be savings for taxpayers and a reduced threat to the Great Lakes.”

“We want to help businesses increase their sales of Asian carp products as part of the state of Illinois’ effort to reduce the numbers of Asian carp and aid in managing this pesky but tasty fish,” said Kevin Irons, manager of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Aquatic Nuisance Species Program. “Taking more Asian carp out of Illinois waters helps prevent their spread, as well as reduce impacts where they are present.”

Federal funds dedicated to preventing the spread of Asian carp are being used for the business development initiative. Funding is limited for the initial effort; and a steering committee has been established to aid in reviewing applications and awarding grants.

As part of the IDNR Asian Carp Market Value Program, grants of up to $8,000 per applicant are available (with a 20 percent match by the applicant) to reimburse recipients for business travel expenses and attendance at trade shows and conferences associated with market development and sales of Asian carp products.

Eligible applicants are Asian carp fish processors and makers of Asian carp products over some or all of the last year from the date of application. Applicants also must have purchased Illinois-caught Asian carp over the same time period.

Applicants must also have a clearly defined plan for growth of current or new Asian carp products and achievable, quantifiable goals that will result from this grant funding.

Information on the Illinois Asian Carp MVP initiative is available online at

On the political front, Rauner said Illinois is happy to accept $8 million from Michigan to put toward the fight to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes – provided the funds can be used now to advance the effort. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s offer of financial assistance is not available until 2028.

Rauner has sent a letter to Snyder with a counter-proposal to continue the fight against Asian carp. The Illinois governor said the best way to reduce the risk of Asian carp invasion is to enhance commercial fishing in the Upper Illinois River and the Alton, La Grange and Peoria pools today. Putting the $8 million to use on ongoing efforts would dramatically reduce the risk prior to construction of a deterrent barrier at Brandon Road in Will County, a project that won’t open until 2022.

Brandon Road Lock and Dam is the planned site for construction of a flushing lock, engineered channel and acoustic fish deterrent with an electric barrier system to prevent the upstream transfer of Asian carp and other aquatic nuisance species. The projected construction cost of the project approaches $800 million.

Snyder had said the Brandon Road project is so vital to helping control the Asian carp population throughout the Great Lakes area that his state would kick in $8 million once the lock and dam is fully operational in 2028.

“Governor Snyder’s offer of operations and maintenance support isn’t of much use until the Brandon project is completed in 2028,” Rauner said. “In that context, the Michigan offer lacks the true sense of urgency required to protect the Great Lakes for the next decade.”

In his letter to Snyder, Rauner said that scientists at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources estimate that a current investment of $8 million would double contractual commercial fishing and monitoring efforts, and allow for expanded efforts and a significant reduction in Asian carp breeding and juvenile populations.

Rauner sent Snyder an initial draft intergovernmental agreement suggesting the two states continue working together on their mutual goal of fighting Asian carp migration. Continued collaboration, Rauner said, is necessary to ensure ongoing protection for the Great Lakes while additional measures at Brandon Road are engineered and designed. The states were successful earlier this year in a mutual effort earlier this year to accelerate the Brandon Road time line with the federal government.

“In the meantime,” Rauner said in his letter to Snyder. “I will encourage the incoming administration to seriously consider your fair-share funding formula, applied to construction as well as operations and maintenance, after they are fully briefed on the issue and project.”

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