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updated: 10/16/2012 7:38 AM

Asian carp processing plant could open in month

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Associated Press

GRAFTON-- Investors in a Asian carp processing plant in southern Illinois hope to start operations within a month.

"Everyone is happy, everything is progressing, and we are getting ready to work on facility modifications within the next 30 days," Ben Allen with American Heartland Fish Products LLC told The Telegraph in Alton for a Monday story The company is waiting to receive federal grant money and low-interest loans. The funding comes through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and includes about $1.4 million in loans for the company and about $525,000 for city of Grafton infrastructure at the plant site.

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The plant will be in the 700-resident Grafton, about 40 miles northeast of St. Louis. The plant will harvest the invasive, ecologically threatening species from two of the nation's biggest inland rivers that converge nearby.

Company officials said the plant will create permanent jobs and revitalize the local commercial fishing industry.

Asian carp were imported decades ago to the U.S. They migrated up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and are poised to invade the Great Lakes, where scientists say they could out-compete native fish for food.

The federal government has spent more than $100 million on an electric barrier and other steps to keep them out. Bighead and silver carp are a particularly serious threat because they eat plankton -- microscopic plants and animals that are essential components of aquatic food webs.

The investors in the Grafton plant have said the carp are popular among Asian consumers, but because many Asian waterways are highly polluted, there is a large demand for carp caught in U.S. waters.

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