By Nate Drag:
The latest chapter in the ongoing saga of Asian Carp is a report released Tuesday by the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes St Lawrence Cities Initiative describing three potential alternatives to creating a physical separation between the Mississippi River watershed and the Great Lakes watershed. The hope of this study, titled “Restoring the Natural Divide”, is provide economically viable and ecological sound alternatives that will stop the flow of aquatic invasive species in both directions by physically separating the two watersheds at the current connection in the Chicago Area Waterway System. Beginning in the summer of 2010, the catalyst for this study was the increasing threat of the Asian Carp invasion into the Great Lakes.
And while geographically the study focuses on waterways in and around Chicago, Illinois, the report has caught the eye of decision makers across the basin. Co-Chair of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force, Rep. Louise Slaughter (from right here in Upstate New York) is drafting a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers to encourage the Corps to look closely at the report’s findings. The Army Corps is currently working on a similar study of their own, the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS), but this is not due to be completed until late 2015. And as DNA evidence and several live Asian Carps have already been found beyond the electrical barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and in Lake Erie, time is luxury the Great Lakes may not have. The release of this study will go a long way to support and compliment the study being done by the Corps, which also focuses on other geographic areas that may be direct routes for Asian Carp into the Great Lakes such the Maumee River in Ohio.
The release of this study also highlights the progressive work that can be done by region wide collaboration amongst urban centers. The Great Lakes St Lawrence Cities Initiative, founded in 2003 by the Mayors of Chicago and Toronto, consists of mayors and other elected officials from participating cities working together to integrate their environmental, economic and social agendas to protect a resource that supports their communities. Mayor Paul Dyster of Niagara Falls and Mayor Tom Richards of Rochester are members of the Cities Initiative. The City of Buffalo, however, is not.
The Great Lakes have been impacted by numerous invasive species over the last several decades from zebra mussels to round gobies. Each time a new species is introduced into an ecosystem, the potential for irreversible change exists. And while Asian Carp might not be like the Burmese pythons that are killing large mammals in the Everglades in Florida, the varieties of Asian Carp that are threatening to enter the Lakes, Bighead and Silver Carp, consume massive amount of the most basic component for life in every Great Lake: algae. These species of fish can weigh up to 100 pounds and can consume 40% percent of their body weight daily. The fear is that this would leave very little leftovers for native species, like walleye, perch, and bass, having a devastating impact on the food chain.
For more information on this study and Asian Carp, please visit this site for detailed versions of the report, visuals, and videos.