We’ve all been hearing the dire news about Asian carp. These invasive fish are at the Great Lakes’ back door, just miles from Lake Michigan. Not only are they threatening the delicate ecological balance of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, they are a major threat to our regional boating and tourism industry. But, to those of us hundreds of miles downstream, action to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, and ultimately the St. Lawrence River, seems to be proceeding at a glacial pace.
Save The River has been in touch with regional environmental partners, government agencies, and elected officials to figure out what’s going on with this critical River issue. Here’s what we’ve learned….
Few Quick Solutions Available
Frustratingly, few complete solutions are available to stop the carp quickly. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to operate an electric barrier fence in waterways near Chicago separating the Mississippi River from Lake Michigan. However, questions about the effectiveness of the barrier have been raised and the Corps refuses to release data that would provide more information on the barrier’s ability to keep out the carp. [Update: Thanks to great work by our friends at NRDC, the Corps has just been forced to release this data.]
Immediate closure of the navigation locks in Chicago has also been proposed as an immediate solution. However, lock closure would only block three of five connecting waterways and, as a result, would not be fully effective in keeping the carp out of Lake Michigan.
The only permanent solution to keeping the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River is restoring hydrologic separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi basins. Over the past two centuries, canals have been constructed to connect the two basins that were never naturally connected. This connection has not only sped up the transfer of invasive species between the two basins but has also increased water loss from the Great Lakes.
Unfortunately, the City of Chicago’s aging sewer and water infrastructure was engineered to utilize these man-made connections, as a part of a centuries old effort to keep sewage away from the city’s drinking water intakes in Lake Michigan. Add to the equation a barge industry that is vociferously opposed to closing the connection between the Mississippi and the Great Lakes and the full picture of what is needed to reach the goal of complete hydrologic separation becomes clear.
What You Can Do
Tell the Corps to Speed Up Study
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently studying hydrologic separation solutions through the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin Interbasin Feasibility Study (GLMRIS). Despite its bureaucratic name, this study is critical because it will determine if implement permanent solutions to stop the Asian carp are implemented.
Unfortunately, the study is moving at a snails pace and the study goals have been diluted. The Corps is collecting public comments through March 31. Comments can be submitted via the study website: glmris.anl.gov. Comments are needed from citizens to help carry two critical points. Learn more about the study and find talking points for comments in our action alert.
Contact Your Representatives in Washington
Legislation has been submitted in Congress that will force the Corps to speed up their study and improve the focus. Contact your elected officials in Washington and urge them to support this important bill. (Not sure how to contact your Members of Congress? Check out this handy website.)
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