Electric Fish Barrier to Prevent Invasive Species in Iowa Great Lakes

(IOWA GREAT LAKES) - Those high-jumping fish that slap boaters in the face just hit a roadblock at the Iowa Great Lakes. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources installed a new electric fish barrier to prevent Asian Silver Carp from invading the lakes.

Iowa DNR finished building the barrier in February, but just activated it last week hoping to prevent invasive fish from entering the waters. The electric pulses are designed to stop fish from migrating.

"As fish move upstream, they'll come to this electric barrier and as they move into the electric field that's produced by the electric barrier, the field will actually turn the fish away," said Iowa DNR Fisheries Biologist Mike Hawkins.

Iowa DNR teamed up with a local committee to turn away Asian Silver Carp: an invasive species that stirs up problems for the ecosystem.

"They're filtering out zooplankton and phytoplankton out of the water. These are the little, tiny microorganisms make up the base of food chain. So if they were to eat all of those, that would leave very little for our native fish and they may be able to quickly out compete them," said Hawkins.

Asian Carp also pose a threat to boaters - jumping eight to 10 feet out of the water. That's why the electric barrier, equipped with seven pulsator and a separate control building to restore power could solve those problems.

"It's not like having a physical barrier in the stream. And so these electric barriers allow the free flow of water, but stop the migration of those detrimental fish," said Hawkins.

Each pulsator draws about 300 watts of electricity - that's equivalent to three light bulbs. They run simultaneously and pulsate five times per second. DNR can adjust the settings for certain situations.

"Work that's been done has shown that this particular wave form that we're putting into the water is best at stopping Asian Carp," said Hawkins.

The work isn't done yet. Crews continue to put the finishing touches on an innovative area.

"The electric barrier technology is spreading. It's really spreading with the threat of Asian Carp. A number of other areas and communities are looking at electric barriers as a way to protect their resources, maybe their river system or maybe their lake from Asian Carp," said Hawkins.

Most importantly, Hawkins says the caution signs are there for a reason. So make sure you stay clear of the area for your safety and everyone else's.

Iowa DNR is keeping a close eye on the barrier and hopes to install more of them across the state. Hawkins says it could be a great tool for stopping not only Asian carp, but other invasive species as well.