Study of how to separate Lake Michigan from Mississippi River basin is nearing completion
If you’re worried about Asian carp invading the Great Lakes, mark this date on your calendar: January 2012.
That’s when the Great Lakes Commission will release the results of a much anticipated, privately funded study of how to re-engineer the Chicago Waterway System to keep Asian carp from invading Lake Michigan.
The $2 million Great Lakes Commission study is looking at how to achieve ecological separation between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basin, which were linked when the city of Chicago built the Chicago Waterway System in the late 1800s. The city built the canals to reverse the flow of the Chicago River, so the city’s sewage could be flushed into the Mississippi River instead of Lake Michigan.
A century later, those canals have become a conduit through which Asian carp and other invasive species in the Mississippi River system could invade the Great Lakes.
“The project that reversed the flow of the Chicago River needs to be re-imagined,” said Tim Eder, executive director of the Great Lakes Commission. He spoke Friday at the Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Detroit.
The Great Lakes Commission is looking at how to break the artificial ties that bind Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River system, without creating flooding in Chicago or bankrupting the businesses that rely on the Chicago Waterway System.
“Ecological separation is the long-term solution” for keeping Asian carp from storming Lake Michigan via the Chicago Waterway System, Eder said.
The goal is to have Asian carp barriers in the Chicago Waterway System in 2017, Eder said. “We’re trying to do this quickly,” he said.
Creating a 21st century Chicago Waterway System is a major engineering challenge, and the solutions will carry a huge price tag. But if this work keeps Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, it will be worth every penny.
More information on the Great Lakes Commission’s study can be found here: http://bit.ly/hfsYf3
The commission’s study will supplement the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ study of how best to keep Asian carp in the Mississippi River basin from invading the Great Lakes. The Corps study won’t be released until at least 2015.