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Will Asian carp turn up in fishing expedition near Lake Michigan?

Federal officials start the four-day expedition Monday. Its aim is to determine whether the Asian carp has infiltrated water locks that are designed to keep the species out of Lake Michigan.

By Staff writer / August 1, 2011

In this Aug. 19, 2010 file photo, Asian Carp try to make their way upstream on the Kansas River near Edwardsville, Kansas. Federal officials started a four-day intensive fishing expedition Monday to determine whether the Asian carp has infiltrated water locks that are designed to keep the invasive species from entering Lake Michigan.

Travis Heying/the Wichita Eagle/AP/File

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Chicago

Federal officials are starting a four-day intensive fishing expedition Monday to determine whether the Asian carp has infiltrated water locks that are designed to keep the invasive species from entering Lake Michigan, a scenario that neighboring states say would wreak havoc on the lake’s fragile ecosystem.

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The search effort is in response to discoveries of Asian carp DNA in June and July, all in Lake Calumet, a body of water located about six miles below Lake Michigan but directly connected to it through the Calumet-Sag Channel. That waterway intersects the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, a man-made channel that connects Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River.

Biologists from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Illinois Department of National Resources will join commercial fisherman and biologists from Southern Illinois University in the expedition through Lake Calumet and surrounding waterways. Their activities will include laying half-mile-wide nets to sweep large portions of the lake as well as sampling fish along the shoreline through electrofishing. The search is scheduled to continue through Thursday.

The expedition, says John Goss of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who is leading the effort, is to determine if the DNA discoveries warrant further action. It will also investigate other possible reasons that the species may have entered the Chicago waterway system, such as fishermen using it as bait.

In June 2010, a 19-pound Asian carp was fished out of Lake Calumet. This is the only live sample of the species to date, but environmental groups and states neighboring Illinois argue that dozens of DNA samples taken in recent years show that an electric barrier, located about 35 miles downstream from Lake Michigan in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, is not enough to keep the Asian carp out.

In all, 85 DNA samples taken since 2009 have tested positive for Asian carp, according to the Chicago office of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

This includes positive tests in recent months. On June 15, seven positive DNA samples were taken, followed by two more on July 12 and another two on July 19. During this time period, a total of 328 water samples were taken, according to the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, a multi-agency effort created in 2009 and tasked with monitoring and controlling the movement of the species.

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