It’s not every day that a portion of the St. Joseph River is closed to the public, but it happened today and it will continue on Wednesday.
The rare river closing is part of a disaster drill, or a so-called “readiness exercise.” Some 40 officers from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will use a two mile section of the river north of Berrien Springs to prepare for a possible invasion of Asian carp.
“We don't survey for bighead and silver carp every day, we do surveys for walleyes and salmon and trout and blue gill, and bass so the techniques used are not real familiar to us,” said Todd Kalish with the Michigan DNR.
Two days will be devoted to playing carp-catching-catch-up. Officers will use gill nets, blocking nets and electrofishing while preparing for the possibility that the most feared carp of all, the Asian carp may find its way into the Great Lakes and its tributaries.
“An adult bighead silver carp can lay, female can lay up to a million eggs, female bighead carp can also eat about 40 percent of their body weight in one day, they can get to be about 100 pounds,” said Kalish.
And if the Asian carp does show up here, one of the first places it would likely be found would be the very site of today’s readiness exercise near the site of the Jasper Dairy Park and boat launch.
“The St. Joseph River provides suitable habitat for silver and bigheaded carp, silver and bigheaded carp, they actually require a river system similar to the St. Joseph River for certain stages of their lifecycle and, in particular reproduction,” said Kalish. “And so they have to enter rivers like this in order to survive.”
The common fear is that the Asian carp would enter the Great Lakes through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal where electronic barriers have been installed.
The closing of a two mile portion of the St. Joseph River will last until 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday.