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Illinois Conservationists: Barrier the Best Way to Stop Asian Carp

PHOTO: Conservationists say a physical barrier is the only viable method to keep Asian carp in the Mississippi River from entering the Great Lakes. Photo courtesy of USFWS.
PHOTO: Conservationists say a physical barrier is the only viable method to keep Asian carp in the Mississippi River from entering the Great Lakes. Photo courtesy of USFWS.
January 9, 2014

CHICAGO - The Chicago waterway system provides a path for Asian carp and other invasive species to make their way from the Mississippi River Basin into the Great Lakes, which experts say poses a threat to people, wildlife and the economy. A study released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week outlined strategies to stop the spread of the invasive species, which can wipe out native fish with their voracious appetite.

Robert Hirschfeld, water policy specialist, Prairie Rivers Network, said the only viable offered solution is the creation of a physical separation, because other options such as electronic barriers have proved ineffective.

"It's possible that barges can pull fish through in their wake, and they've also identified small fish swimming through in schools through the electric barrier. It's possible that it provides some risk reduction, but it's certainly not something that we want to rely on in the long term," Hirschfeld said.

A physical barrier also would stop the spread of the dozens of invasive species that are in the Great Lakes into waterways in Illinois, he said.

"Most of the species that have been identified as high risk are actually in the Great Lakes, threatening to come into the Mississippi River Basin, and so a lot more species would be coming into the Illinois River, into the Mississippi River," he warned.

Illinois has a vested interest in protecting the economies that rely on its waterways, Hirschfeld added.

"Illinois is a Great Lakes state, so there are billions of dollars at stake in the economy of the Great Lakes: a $7 billion annual fishery, billions more in recreation and tourism. There are billions of jobs that the Great Lakes supports," he calculated.

The study shows the need for national leaders to take prompt action on a permanent solution that will protect the environment and the way of life for millions of people, he said. According to the Army Corps, the physical separation of the waterways could take a quarter century and cost up to $18 billion.

The report is available at http://glmris.anl.gov.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL