A century ago, when the sage and wise in Chicago decided to reverse the flow of the Chicago River to keep their poop out of their drinking water (i.e., Lake Michigan) the dreaded Asian Carp were still in Asia. In the last couple decades, the imported fish have been terrible guests destroying habitats and fishing up and down the Mississippi and connecting rivers. Every moment of each day the precocious pests draw nearer and nearer to Lake Michigan, their gateway to North America’s fresh water seascape. Congress did approve funds to build a stronger, more permanent electric barrier to stop the seemingly unstoppable fish, but a new report finds that separating the Mississippi River and Great Lakes watersheds would provide a better and more long-term solution.
“The Great Lakes and the Mississippi River are at risk because of a connection that’s nothing natural,” Joel Brammeier, vice president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and lead author of the report that took more than two years to complete told Dan Egan. “Fifteen miles of water and an experimental electric barrier are all that’s standing between the Great Lakes and Asian carp. We’ve got to get serious about a real solution.”
A real solution, not just to stop the Carp but other threats too – such as VHS that lurks in Illinois waters and could threaten southern fish farms. So, the cost wouldn’t only be to the fish – fish farmers and the sport fishing industry would take huge hits if the carp make it into the Lakes.
The study was funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and it says it would cost around $15 million over several years to establish the separation. That may sound like a lot in today’s troubled economy, but think of the jobs it could create and how it might impact the local economy once the carp’s deadly advance could be halted. The Corp of Engineers typically manage this kind of project, but Brammeier points out to HOW that the Corps often contracts out – “it would be contracted out to a vendor or a number of vendors and they would be paid in federal funds.” He added that Chicago’s Port could be revitalized while dealing with the problem of invasive species.
The Lakes need to be protected from the Asian Carp as well as a number of the industries the Lakes support and with unemployment hitting 6 percent we need jobs – this could be a win win for everyone.