The Army Corps of Engineers is looking to protect its southern flank from invasive species. It’s putting up $2 million to stop the Asian carp and other species from getting any farther north than Akron.
There’s an odd spot in the Portage Lakes of south Akron where you can watch water flowing north to the St. Lawrence Seaway and a different stream heading south to the Gulf of Mexico.
That Continental Divide is where the Army Corps wants to dig in and keep invasive species, including bighead carp, northern snakehead, and skipjack herring, from getting into Lake Erie.
Lindsey Smith of Summit Metroparks says the invasive fish could reach Lake Erie if the south-flowing Tuscarawas River floods its banks into the north-flowing Ohio and Erie Canal nearby.
“There are Asian carp that have been noted in the Ohio River and they are a nuisance to native wildlife,” Smith says. “So barriers are being constructed to try to prevent them from getting any further and eventually up into the Lake Erie watershed.”
The site was determined by the U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study.
The Army Corps is working with the EPA, Summit Metroparks and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to build stone or sheet metal walls at various low points along the canal towpath to protect against floods.
The canal is not watered completely from Akron to Cleveland, but there are areas where side streams and flooding could help fish make the hop into the parallel Cuyahoga River. They would then have a largely unimpeded path to the lake.
“The Ohio Canal is a bit of a connecting system from some of these watersheds,” Smith says. “It’s a basic bridge between watersheds, so that’s why it’s a concern for the carp.”
Funding comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.