Iowa Great Lakes closer to activating electric fish barrier - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Iowa Great Lakes closer to activating electric fish barrier

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The summer flood of 2011 brought higher river levels throughout Siouxland. Since then, fishermen have coped with heavier dose of invasive bottom feeders that migrated in with the flood waters. That includes a problem that you're probably familiar with: carp.

"The fish that jump out of the water and can cause some recreational problems for boaters and skiers. Those are species that we don't want to get into the lakes," said Mike Hawkins, fisheries biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

After the flood of 2011, several species of carp headed into the Iowa Great Lakes. So, last fall, the community raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, with contributions from the states of Iowa and Minnesota, to set up a $1 million electric barrier, to keep invasive fish out. Iowa's DNR contributed $300,000 to the project. Minnesota gave $261,000.

"The barrier doesn't select by species, it's just going to prevent fish from getting in," said Hawkins.

Hawkins watches the waters to know when it's time to activate that barrier. Seven electrodes are set up across this deck and activated by a nearby control room.

"The barrier can actually be turned on or off, or set to automatically turn on when water levels reach a certain point. It'll actually turn off when water levels reach a certain point," said Hawkins.

He says the barrier creates a weak electric field in the water that will keep the fish from passing through.

"And that electric field will turn fish away, or if they get far enough up the electric barrier, it will actually incapacitate them and they will float back down stream," said Hawkins.

People can visit area near the barrier, but the DNR wants to ensure folks are safe around it.

"We really want to keep people off the deck," said Hawkins. "It's important to keep them away from that. The electrical field is designed to be not necessarily safe, but something you don't want to get into."

Right now, there's over 100 feet of fencing on the outside of the barrier, but within the next couple of months, they hope to add additional signage both near the water and even over the top of it.

Hawkins says water levels are already up about a foot and a half from winter.

"Another heavy rain or two within the Iowa Great Lakes water shed could cause be enough to have us turn this barrier on," said Hawkins.

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