MILWAUKEE, Dec. 18 (UPI) — A call to re-establish the natural barrier between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River to restrain non-native species is gaining ground, officials say.
Fifty members of Congress representing the Great Lakes states wrote to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Friday urging them to “immediately consider” such a project, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, built in 1900, allowed the city to discharge its sewage away from Lake Michigan, its source of drinking water, by reversing the flow of the Chicago River, the newspaper said.
But the artificial channel linked the Mississippi and Great Lakes basins, and created a route for invasive species such as Asian carp, zebra mussels and round gobies to move from one to the other.
These species can ravage native ecosystems, experts say. Asian carp can grow to 50 pounds and consume 20 percent of their weight in plankton per day.
Closing locks on the canal would create a barrier, but with severe economic impact on industries using the canal to move their products and cargo to all areas of the United States, the Journal Sentinel said.
The Army Corps says it will explore the feasibility of recreating such a separation, and the EPA has pledged $13 million to combat the Asian carp threat to the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International