Asian Carp Fence Activated at Barkley Dam
By The Associated Press/West Kentucky Star Staff
GRAND RIVERS - At Kentucky’s Barkley Dam on Friday, officials pushed the power button to activate the new bioacoustic fish fence in the battle against Asian carp.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and local leaders gathered to commission the new project installed near a lock at the bottom of the dam.

The $7 million, three-year field trial will help wildlife officials determine whether the device effectively keeps Asian carp from moving upstream.

The fence works as a deterrent by broadcasting noise at a frequency that irritates the carp. The noise is contained within a wall of bubbles that are lit by strobes. The combination has worked well in the laboratory and in smaller-scale outdoor settings.

Wildlife officials chose Barkley Dam  for the nation's first large-scale test because Asian carp are already established there, making it easy to track their movements. Also, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources already had a fulltime crew there monitoring the Asian carp population.

Kentucky Aquatic Nuisance Species Program Director Ron Brooks said staff members have been catching and tagging both Asian carp and native species with transmitters ahead of the fish fence installation. Now they will carefully observe their movements and interactions with the fence.

The trial is scheduled to run for three years, but Brooks said officials are full of anticipation over what the early results will be.“If it looks really good by the summer of next year there is going to be a push to bring the research to other sites,” he said. “They’re going to look for where the next best places are to test.”

Speaking at the Friday event, McConnell said he has secured $25 million for Asian carp control in the Senate version of the upcoming budget, which he called a record amount.

The money will help “protect Kentucky’s $1.2 billion fishing industry and help it continue to grow,” McConnell said.

McConnell also recently spoke with West Kentucky Star about the fight against Asian carp in the state. "We're going all out to win this war on Asian carp," McConnell said, "it's adversely affecting tourism. We can't have that happen, it's too important to western Kentucky." 

But the fish fence is about more than just protecting Lake Barkley. Part of the money for the project comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, said Charles Wooley, Great Lakes regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wooley said if the technology works, it will be transferable to other regions and can help keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

Asian carp is a catch-all term for four species of invasive carp that have spread up the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico as far as Wisconsin, and into the Missouri and Ohio rivers and other smaller tributaries. They compete for, and put stress on the food supply of local fish populations.

In addition, carp jump out of the water when disturbed by boats. “They get slime and blood everywhere and hurt equipment,” Brooks said.

Published 11:31 PM, Friday Nov. 08, 2019
Updated 09:34 PM, Sunday Nov. 10, 2019

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