A 2012 report clearly demonstrates that it is possible to separate the artificial connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins and prevent the transfer of invasive species through the Chicago River system.
Authored by the Great Lakes Commission and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, “Restoring the Natural Divide” re-envisions the Chicago River as a system which not only prevents the transfer of aquatic invaders such as Asian carp, but also better serves its functions of moving people and goods and managing stormwater, while improving water quality.
“Restoring the Natural Divide” offers detailed analysis on three possible separation scenarios and includes a wealth of data on the integration of each scenario with the region’s water infrastructure, as well as an outline and timetable for implementation.
The study was prompted by the urgent need to find a solution to the ongoing problem of invasive species, including Asian carp. Strong evidence suggests that the threat of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes is imminent and that their potential to wreak ecological and economic havoc is real. Local and Federal Governments currently spend upwards of $200 million per year to control invasive species in the Great Lakes. Ending the continuing threat of transfer of these aquatic invaders through the Chicago River system will be essential to the region’s long-term economic well-being, and would complement a regional vision for river restoration, increasing the value of Chicago’s second waterfront.
“Restoring the Natural Divide” makes the case for separation at a time when Illinois leaders are reinvesting in Chicago’s River, affirming its place as a vital asset to the people of Illinois.