Indiana's Trail Creek lamprey barrier to be dedicated

One of the newest sea lamprey control tools, a barrier on Indiana’s Trail Creek, will be dedicated on Friday (April 20) near Michigan City.

Trail Creek, a tributary to Lake Michigan, produces tens of thousands of sea lamprey larvae annually, contributing to Lake Michigan’s sea lamprey population and the destruction it brings to the fishery.

With the barrier in place, lampricides will no longer be used in Trail Creek above the barrier, resulting in cost savings. The new barrier will deny sea lampreys access to their spawning grounds and thus reduce their numbers before they have a chance to destroy Great Lakes fish.

The Trail Creek barrier was constructed through a partnership between the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The barrier dedication is at 10 a.m. (Central time) at the barrier location on Springfield Avenue in Michigan City. For a map with directions to the site, see www.in.gov/dnr/news/coLampreyBarrierDedication.pdf.

On hand will be Bill James, chief of fisheries for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and a member of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission; Charlie Wooley, deputy regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s midwest region; Lt. Col. John Richards of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and Mike Ryan of the Northwest Indiana Steelheaders and Hoosier Coho Club.

Sea lampreys invaded Lake Michigan more than 75 years ago and have been a blight on the fishery. The average sea lamprey destroys more than 40 pounds of Great Lakes fish during the predacious phase of its life.

Fortunately, sea lampreys can be controlled in the Great Lakes. Under the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries of 1954—a treaty between Canada and the United States—the Great Lakes Fishery Commission delivers sea lamprey control in partnership with other agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers. The Indiana DNR and similar agencies depend on the sea lamprey control program to support activities such as fish stocking, habitat recovery, and species restoration. Sea lampreys have been reduced by 90 percent in most areas of the Great Lakes, contributing to a healthy environment, jobs, and more than $7 billion in economic return annually to the people of Canada and the United States.

The Trail Creek sea lamprey barrier is a fixed crest lowhead barrier fitted with stop logs in the center. Jumping fish species may pass at any time. The barrier also is equipped with a fishway and a sea lamprey trap that will be operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The fishway and trap are designed to remove spawning sea lampreys but allow passage of desirable fish above the barrier. Trail Creek has been treated with lampricides eight times since 1966. Each treatment costs approximately $150,000.

“The barrier at Trail Creek is the newest weapon in the sea lamprey control arsenal,” Bill James said. “It will prevent tens of thousands of sea lamprey larvae from migrating to Lake Michigan to destroy Great Lakes fish and it will save the Great Lakes Fishery Commission millions of dollars in treatment costs.”

Charlie Wooley said: “Sea lamprey barriers prevent sea lampreys access to their spawning grounds. This barrier removes many miles of sea lamprey habitat from the Great Lakes basin. The barrier is state-of-the-art. Jumping fish pass with ease. With a fishway and sea lamprey trap, the barrier provides for the passage of desirable fish while allowing us to remove sea lampreys from the system before they spawn. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pleased to have this opportunity to work with the Indiana DNR and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to operate this essential fishery management device on Lake Michigan.”

Lt. Col. John Richards said: “The Army Corps has worked with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on several sea lamprey projects throughout the Great Lakes basin and is proud to apply its engineering expertise to such a worthwhile endeavor as the Trail Creek sea lamprey barrier. Sea lamprey control protects the Great Lakes fishery, improves the health of the ecosystem, and provides billions of dollars in economic benefits to the region.”

Mike Ryan, a board member for the Northwest Indiana Steelheaders and Hoosier Coho Club and advisor to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, said: “Sea lamprey control is essential to Lake Michigan and to the Great Lakes fishery. Without it, the millions of people who fish the lakes would have far fewer fish in their creels and we would revert to the days when alewives died on our beaches by the millions. The Great Lakes are a far healthier place today than they were 20 or 30 years ago. The sea lamprey control program has contributed to the remarkable recovery of these lakes.”

Note: Photos of sea lampreys, and other information, are available at www.sealamprey.org.
For directions to Friday’s event, see www.in.gov/dnr/news/co-LampreyBarrierDedication.pdf 

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