CHICAGO, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Politicians, policy makers, and environmentalists in the Great Lakes region are gravely concerned about invasive species like Asian carp and the environmental and economic damages their presence precipitates.
But most remain unconvinced that the latest plans put forth by the Army Corps of Engineers are the right way forward.
In January, the Army Corps published a study that proffered several options for restoring the natural separation between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes watersheds. Over the course of American history, canals built to accommodate cargo shipping have eroded the separation between the two water systems.
The two main plans under consideration would cost roughly $15 billion, both including recommendations for new reservoirs, sewer tunnels and elaborate water treatment plants.
But many are reacting much the way the Illinois Chamber of Commerce is, which argued the Corps plan "is not economical, that it takes too long, and that it will not solve the issue." If federal estimates are correct, the separation plans wouldn't be completed until 2029.
The plans are similar to the recommendations made by the Great Lakes Commission in 2012. “Physical barriers are the most effective way of keeping invasive species from going in either direction, especially Asian carp,” David Ullrich, executive director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, told The Columbia Chronicle.
Others say the plans would cause just as many new headaches as it would solve old ones. And leaders around the region claim the plans would funnel billions of federal dollars to help Chicago upgrade their water treatment infrastructure, a distraction from the larger issue of invasive species mitigation.
Most major cities on the Great Lakes clean their waste water and funnel it back into the lakes. But Chicago only does a minimal amount of filtration, dumping its water southward and leaving the Mississippi to sort out any lingering pollution problems. This is problematic, environmentalists point out, because environmental threats flow both ways. Just as Asian carp threaten to invade northward, a variety of species, like the Zebra mussel, and fish-killing diseases, like VHS, flow out of the Great Lakes and head towards the Gulf.
Of course, cargo shippers don't want more damns in their way, potentially making shipping routes slower and costlier. And critics contend the Army Corps offered especially long term plans to give opponents time to gather ammunition against the separation proposals.
"If you actually wanted to solve the problem," said Thom Cmar, an environmental attorney told The Journal Sentinel, "you would not have gone about it this way."
[The Columbia Chronicle] [The Journal Sentinel]