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Asian carp invade Will County Forest Preserve lake

DNA from silver carp one two Asian species threatening GreLakes was found samples drawn from Lake Calumet. |  File

DNA from silver carp, one of the two Asian species threatening the Great Lakes, was found in samples drawn from Lake Calumet. | File photo

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Updated: March 8, 2013 7:51AM

The Will County Forest Preserve District is gearing up to battle a new invasive species: the dreaded Asian carp.

Testing at Rock Run Rookery showed an 84-acre lake on Youngs Road south of Route 6 in Joliet is chock full of the non-native bottom feeders.

The infiltration was first reported in the fall by a fisherman who caught a carp and emailed a picture of it to the district, spokesman Bruce Hodgdon said. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources confirmed the find in November.

The discovery is not alarming because the department already knew that Asian carp were in that area of the Des Plaines River, said Kevin Irons, manager of the aquatic nuisance species program for the department. But it is a troubling find because the department didn’t want to see the Asian carp migrate north of the Interstate 55 bridge.

“It’s a priority for us, and we will be in there,” Irons said. “We found them and now we’ve got to get them out.”

Physical and electric barriers have been erected in the Lockport and Romeoville areas to keep the fish out of Lake Michigan, where they would wreak havoc on native species.

The Asian carp are getting into the Rock Run Rookery’s lake via a channel dug from the lake to the Des Plaines River when the property was a quarry. The channel won’t be filled in because there is recreational value to it for canoeists, said Marcy DeMauro, executive director of the forest preserve district.

On Wednesday, a district committee gave preliminary approval to a no-cost carp-management plan that will involve help from the natural resources department and a commercial harvest.

If the district board approves the plan on Feb. 14, fishermen would catch the carp with nets and the fish would be ground up into fertilizer. Native fish accidentally trapped in the nets would be thrown back into the lake.

Irons said the department would like to start the program this spring. In the past two years, it has harvested almost 1.5 million pounds of Asian carp between Morris and Starved Rock.

The lake is home to bluegill, bass and walleye that would suffer if they have to compete with Asian carp for plankton, Irons said. During winter months, the carp seek refuge in the lake because it’s spring-fed, which provides enough oxygen when the lake is iced over.

“It’s like they’re going into a cozy igloo,” DeMauro said.

This is just the latest battle the district plans to wage against flora that doesn’t belong in its preserves. The board also will be asked to approve several invasive species eradication contracts to control garlic mustard, buckthorn, honeysuckle, reed canary grass and other weeds that choke out native species.

DeMauro said the district spends about $250,000 a year on such programs. Not every weed or invasive tree can be eliminated, DeMauro said. So the district uses a triage approach to target the most destructive invaders.

While Asian carp, weeds and non-native trees can be controlled, DeMauro said the district has a harder time with one more invasive species: Vandals who destroy district property by stealing cameras, setting fire to toilet paper rolls and crashing into gates and poles.

They also steal signs — lots and lots of signs.

“I think people put them in their garages, basements and their dens,” she said.

Vandalism cost the district $23,805 last year. The best approach to thwart human invaders is to be patient and repair damage as soon as it occurs, DeMauro said.

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