The Michigan Legislature approved an appropriations bill this week for the initial stages of the Brandon Road Lock and Dam project – the final choke point for invasive Asian carp before reaching the Great Lakes. 

In March 2020 amid COVID-19 budget constraints, Gov. Whitmer line-item vetoed the $8 million that was earmarked as Michigan’s contribution for the preconstruction, engineering and design (PED) phase of the Brandon Road project. Earlier this week, several conservation organizations signed onto a letter urging Michigan legislators to reappropriate the money to prevent the spread of Asian carp.

In May of 2019, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) sent Congress a final plan that would rebuild the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Illinois to prevent the introduction of invasive Asian carp into the Great Lakes. Both the U.S. House and Senate have included authorization of the Brandon Road project in two bills moving through Congress — H.R.7575 and S.3591

For the project to begin, however, a PED agreement is required to be signed by the state of Illinois and the Corps. Illinois is the non-federal sponsor of the Brandon Road project. The non-federal cost-share for the PED is $10 million, of which Michigan had previously pledged $8 million to aid in funding.

Recently, the Whitmer administration signaled that they were ready to put the $8 million back on the table and needed the Republican-controlled legislature’s help to do so. The Michigan House approved this (among a larger appropriations bill) 106-3 Tuesday evening. The Michigan Senate concurred, passing the bill unanimously on Wednesday.

Time is running out for Michigan to facilitate solutions to the decade-plus looming problem of invasive carp, said MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter.

“Our Great Lakes’ ecosystems can’t wait another year. Michigan legislators made that statement boldly this week,” Trotter said. “The time to get this done is now, and conservationists across Michigan applaud this action taken to protect Michigan’s freshwater legacy. We urge Governor Whitmer’s support.”

Recreational angling supports a $2.3 billion investment in Michigan’s economy annually, according to a study conducted by Michigan State University commissioned by Michigan United Conservation Clubs. These economic benefits, along with the important ecosystems of the Great Lakes region, are at stake should invasive Asian carp enter our waterways.

With momentum at the federal level carrying forward, now is the time for everyone to be in lockstep, said Trout Unlimited Great Lakes Organizer Taylor Ridderbush.

“The $8 million commitment from the State of Michigan will help ensure that Illinois can move forward with the Army Corps of Engineers and begin work on this project’s preconstruction engineering and design – a critical step to get shovels in the ground and keep invasive Asian carp out of our Great Lakes,” Ridderbush said.

 

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