Today the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the long-awaited Great Lakes Mississippi River Interbasin Study– a report directed by Congress to study prevention of invasive species transferbetween waterways around the Great Lakes.
The introduction of invasive species, and in particular Asian Carp, to the Great Lakes threatens the billion-dollar fishing and boating industries as well as 1.5 million jobs. Invasive species already in the Great Lakes also pose a great risk to the Mississippi River basin. The two basins are currently connected via the Chicago Area Waterways (CAWS).
Physical separation of the CAWS and Lake Michigan provides the most effective and permanent solution to invasive species transfer through aquatic connections. The Corps’ report concludes that physical separation is possible, highlights options for permanent separation and flags potential costs and impacts. We recall that the Corps initially said it could not produce this report by 2014, and are grateful to Senator Durbin for his work to expedite the study. We are also mindful that separation won’t happen overnight.
Now that the report is out, we can move to the next, and most important phase: Illinois’ leaders taking the ball from here, and designing a separation solution that might be better, cheaper, and faster than what the Corps proposes. One can envision separation solutions that pay huge dividend for the Chicago region – modernized freight transportation, a much cleaner Chicago River, and new solutions to flooding problems that have plagued neighborhoods for decades. The Corps did not set out to address those local problems, but now our local leaders can get to work on a solution that delivers all these benefits for Chicago, while keeping Asian Carp and other aquatic invaders out of Lake Michigan forever.
As a member of the Healthy Water Solutions coalition, Sierra Club has partnered to issue the following press release.