States and Cities Launch Initiative to Modernize the Chicago Area Waterway System and Protect the Great Lakes From Asian Carp

July 22, 2010

CHICAGO, July 22 /PRNewswire/ — Today, Great Lakes states and cities joined together to announce an initiative that seeks to transform water management and transportation in the Chicago region for the 21st Century, while safeguarding the Great Lakes from economic and ecological damage caused by Asian carp and other biological invasions from the Mississippi River basin.

A team led by the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative–organizations representing governors, state officials and mayors–will convene users, stakeholders and technical experts to identify the best economic and environmental solutions for separating the Mississippi River basin from the Great Lakes in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS).

Titled Envisioning a Chicago Area Waterway System for the 21st Century, the 18-month initiative will assess modernization of the Waterway System in a way that enhances commercial, recreational and environmental benefits, while preventing the transfer of damaging invasive species. Initial funding for this $2 million project is provided by the Joyce Foundation and the Great Lakes Protection Fund. Other funders are being approached.

Project leaders will engage shippers, water managers, government agencies, citizen groups, recreational and commercial boaters, tribes and others to evaluate options for separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. The natural barriers between these two watersheds were artificially removed during the last century. The recent confirmation of Asian carp on the Lake Michigan side of the dispersal barrier increases the importance of designing long-term solutions.

Residents and leaders of the Great Lakes region fear that the voracious Asian carp could decimate the lakes’ ecosystem, including the region’s $7 billion annual sport fishing industry. Despite control measures, including electric barriers on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, Asian carp have been detected in numerous locations around Chicago. Last month, a live Asian carp was caught in Lake Calumet, above the barriers and just six miles from Lake Michigan. Last week, the state of Illinois announced steps to reduce the population of carp downstream from the barrier through a commercial fishing venture.

Statements of support from Great Lakes elected officials, project leaders and funders are available at http://www.glc.org/announce/10/07chicago.html.

SOURCE Great Lakes Commission; Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

Source: newswire

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