The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) awarded a $1.9 million contract to SAF, Inc. of Akron, Ohio for the construction of several structural measures to reduce the probability of aquatic nuisance species (ANS), including Asian carp, from moving into the Great Lakes at Ohio-Erie Canal located in Summit County, Ohio.

This location is one of eighteen sites along the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basin divide, and is rated a moderate likelihood for transfer of species between the basins. Using Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this project is intended to reduce the probability of transfer of five ANS of concern: bighead carp, silver carp, black carp, northern snakehead, and skipjack herring.

"Invasive species prevention is fundamental to protecting the Great Lakes," said EPA Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp. "Thanks to funding from the GLRI, the likelihood of Asian Carp getting into the Great Lakes through an Ohio pathway has been greatly reduced."

The EPA requested the design and construction oversight be conducted by the Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and close coordination with Summit County Metro Parks. The project will include relatively minor improvements (i.e., top-dressing the towpath itself or use of sheet pile or gabion baskets adjacent to the towpath) to address low points along the canal and fencing/screening at other locations.

During the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS), the Ohio-Erie Canal, just south of Akron, Ohio, was identified as a potential aquatic pathway for the transfer of ANS between the two basins.

"The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study provided us with a road map for where to target resources to prevent the spread of invasive species," said Bill Bolen, Senior Advisor from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "With Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding, we're able to help our partners in Ohio take immediate actions to protect the Great Lakes from threats like Asian carp."

"Prevention is the key to slowing the spread of Asian carp," said Charlie Wooley, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acting Midwest Regional Director. "By addressing a potential pathway of entry for these destructive fish before they can infest new waters, the Ohio-Erie canal project protects valuable natural resources and highlights the importance of collaboration and local on-the-ground action in the fight against Asian carp."

The presence of adult Asian carp has been confirmed in the Ohio River which could then travel into the Muskingum and Tuscarawas Rivers leading to a connection with the Great Lakes Basin via the Ohio-Erie Canal.

"These modest improvements seek to maintain the scenic and historic significance of the area, and are expected to reduce the potential for ANS movement between the basins," said Frank O'Connor, Project Manager at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "The Corps of Engineers will continue to work with our project partners to provide project updates throughout construction."

The Corps of Engineers expects construction to begin by the end of 2018 and be complete in September 2019.

To receive project updates follow the Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BuffaloDistrict, or Summit County Metro Parks on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/summitmetroparks or Medium at https://medium.com/@metro_parks