The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to shorten the timetable for identifying a potential permanent solution to the seemingly unstoppable migration of Asian Carp closer and closer to the Great Lakes.

Officials from the administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told reporters on May 8 that they planned to give Congress and the public an opportunity to weigh in on a potential permanent solution by the end of 2013, two years earlier than expected. The input of Congress, the public and stakeholders will be used to narrow in on the options that merit more detailed project design, the officials said.

They add that the shortened time frame could lead to an earlier start date to implementation of a permanent solution. “We felt a sense of urgency about this,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, said.

The earlier plan called for the Corps of Engineers to spend more time reviewing and analyzing each alternative option before presenting them to Congress and the public some time in 2015.

Darcy said, “This optimized schedule will allow for public engagement earlier and collaboration with Congress to determine viable alternatives.” She said congressional and public support is critical, and any solution involving construction overseen by the Corps of Engineers would require congressional authorization and subsequent appropriations.

John Goss, Asian carp director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said, “This new step will result in a more focused path forward that could mean faster implementation of a permanent solutions for protection our Great lakes from Asian carp.  

One option that has received a fair amount of attention is the idea of physically separating the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River via the Chicago Area Waterway System, which would cost billions of dollars and use thousands of construction workers annually over the course of the project.

That option was deemed feasible in a study commissioned by the Great Lakes Commission and performed by Omaha, Neb.-based HDR.

But Darcy noted that Congress under the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 has required the Corps of Engineers to evaluate all potential solutions, and that while permanent hydrologic separation is one option, it is but one of many.