Monday, January 13, 2014

Chicago leaders protest plan to separate Great Lakes from Miss. R. system to keep out Asian carp

A group of business leaders and politicians organized by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) gathered Sunday to protest one of the proposals in a report by the Army Corps of Engineers to keep invasive Asian carp out of Lake Michigan, saying one of the eight proposals would cause serious damage to their livelihood and pose public safety concerns, Kim Geiger reports for the Chicago Tribune. The $18 billion, 25-year proposal at the heart of the controversy "would involve physically cutting off Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River through what’s known as hydrologic separation — the use of physical barriers to block aquatic connections between basins." If the carp get into Lake Michigan, they could damage the Great Lakes' $7 billion annual fishing industry. (Tribune photo by Nancy Stone: Sen. Mark Kirk)

Michael Borgstrom, president of Wendella Sightseeing, a Chicago tour-boat firm, said the proposal would damage his business. He told Geiger, “Hydrologic separation, in my opinion, is an irrational, costly and irreversible response to something that has been and continues to be successfully managed by federal, state and local agencies.”

Others, like Del Wilkins, a vice president at New Orleans-based Canal Barge Company, said closing the waterway would increase traffic on highways and railroads. “Imagine another 25 million tons that are put into rail and truck trafficking,” he said. “If we think we have headaches today, we would have big headaches tomorrow.”

Instead, Kirk would raise the voltage at electric barriers that have been built to keep the carp out. Fish have breached the barriers, but no carp have been found to have done so. He said a Coast Guard official told him the voltage is low because "boat passengers could be shocked if they touch the wall near a barrier," Geiger reports. "That problem could be solved with proper signage, Kirk said." (Read more)

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