Shipping on Chicago Waterways in Decline; Clean Future Requires Investments
There’s been a lot of important news about Asian carp and the Chicago Waterways over the past few months. Read on to learn:
- Where are the Asian carp?
- Is the electric barrier working?
- How do we create a livable, vibrant Chicago Area Waterway System?
Data released earlier this fall show that small Asian carp are now only 77 miles from Lake Michigan. For the first time, small Silver carp have been found above both the Starved Rock and Marseilles Lock & Dam. Detection of Asian carp less than 6-inches in size indicates where Asian carp are successfully spawning and recruiting young. Since the beginning of 2015, small Asian carp have moved 66 miles closer to lake Michigan and beyond two separate locks and dams. Here is the updated risk map:
Studies conducted over the last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have confirmed that small fish can become trapped in the underwater spaces between commercial barges and transported distances up to at least 10 miles and across electrical barriers.
A series of three electrical barriers operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the only dedicated structural deterrent against an Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes.
A 2013 study indicated that small fish could swim through the electric barrier in large groups. Underwater video cameras recorded entire schools of small fish swimming through the electric barrier.
The electric barriers cost $12 million per year in operation and maintenance. A new barrier is currently under construction. Over the last three years, more than $74 million has been spent on the new barrier.
A new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) calls on the Chicago region to assess the state of its inland waterway system and invest in a future that best serves residents and other stakeholders.
“Chicago faces a stark choice for its inland water system: allow it to decline into an ever more marginal backwater and source of pollution or seize the moment to revitalize the city’s water economy and communities,” said Meleah Geertsma, attorney in NRDC’s Midwest Program and report author. “Bold action to clean up and protect the waterways can bring more livable communities and clean industries to the area, while protecting the region and nation from invasive aquatic species that threaten our treasured Great Lakes water resources.”
Despite significant challenges, including deteriorated shipping infrastructure and a long downward trend in commercial shipping on the CAWS, NRDC makes clear that a commitment to re-envision and reinvest in the CAWS could transform it into a commercially and environmentally sound resource for the region, fostering livable communities and clean industries, and protecting the region and nation from invasive aquatic species that threaten treasured Great Lakes water resources.The report also provides an overview of enforcement actions taken against polluting businesses along the CAWS in recent years, and urges the development of land use plans that envision vibrant riverfront communities anchored by sustainable businesses. Read the full report here: http://www.nrdc.org/water/revitalizing-chicago-area-waterway-system.asp
Posted October 30, 2015