Great Lakes
   

Public Input Needed on Corps Study

Public Input Needed on Corps Study to Prevent Invasive Species from Moving Between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently held a series of public meetings and is continuing to accept written comments through March 31 on its Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin Interbasin Study (GLMRIS). The way this study is conducted will determine how quickly and how effectively the federal government will act to stop Asian carp and other invasive species from entering the Great Lakes basin, potentially devastating the more than $7 billion Great Lakes fishery. The study was authorized by Congress in 2007 requiring that the Corps determine options to prevent invasive species from moving between the Great Lakes and Mississippi basins through the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal and other pathways. The Izaak Walton League encourages you to attend a public hearing and support a permanent hydrologic separation between the basins, which will restore natural conditions and be the most effective way to prevent the migration of Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species.

Background

Two species of Asian carp – the silver and the bighead carps – escaped into the Mississippi River from southern aquaculture facilities in the early 1990s when the facilities were flooded. Steadily, the carp have made their way northward becoming the most abundant species in some areas of the Mississippi, out-competing native fish, and causing severe hardship to the people who fish the river.

The Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins are not naturally connected.  However, in the early 1900s, the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal was constructed, which created man-made connections between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. Currently, the carp are in the canal and have been sighted approximately 40 miles from Lake Michigan.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Asian carp are a significant threat to the Great Lakes because they are large, extremely prolific, and consume vast amounts of food. They can weigh up to 100 pounds and can grow to a length of more than four feet. They are well-suited to the climate of the Great Lakes region, which is similar to their native Asian habitats. Researchers expect that Asian carp would disrupt the food chain that supports the native fish of the Great Lakes. Due to their large size, ravenous appetites, and rapid rate of reproduction, these fish could pose a significant risk to the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Asian carp would likely become a dominant species in the Great Lakes, threatening a more than $7 billion fishery.

Army Corps Study

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) was directed by Congress in 2007 to determine options available to prevent invasive species from moving through the Chicago waterway system, including the Ship and Sanitary Canal, in both directions. Its current study will also will look at all hydrological connections between the Great Lakes and Mississippi basins. This study is important because there will be no authorization or funding for a permanent barrier to prevent the movement of aquatic invasive species between these two basins until this study is completed.

According to the Corps, the study will evaluate a range of options and technologies to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River by aquatic pathways. On the study website, the Corps says “in this context, the term ‘prevent’ includes the reduction of risk to the maximum extent possible, because it may not be technologically feasible to achieve an absolute solution.” One of the options the Corps states it will include in the study is hydrologic separation of the basins.

The Izaak Walton League agrees with many scientific researchers and colleague conservation organizations that the only surefire way to prevent migration of invasive species between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins is permanent hydrologic separation of the basins. Also, we recognize that this is an urgent threat, with evidence of Asian carp already being found beyond the electric barriers in the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal. The timeline of the study needs to be shortened significantly to prevent the spread of Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species before it is too late.

Your Comments Are Needed

Please submit written comments by March 31 to let the Corps know that permanent hydrologic separation of the basins and a shorter timeline for study completion are important to you. Click here for our full action alert and talking points.

More Information on GLMRIS

General information about the study is available at http://glmris.anl.gov/aboutstudy/index.cfm. You can download the Corp’s Project Management Plan for the GLMRIS, the Federal Register notice of the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement and other documents by visiting http://glmris.anl.gov/documents/index.cfm. For the full schedule of public meetings and other ways to submit feedback on the study, visit http://glmris.anl.gov/involve/index.cfm.

Izaak Walton League Resolution on Hydrologic Separation

In 2010, Izaak Walton League members passed a policy resolution urging the permanent hydrological separation of the Great Lakes basin from the Mississippi River basin to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species, including Asian carp. Please click here for the full text of the resolution.

 
 
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