Government and Environmentalists on both sides of the border are tackling one of the many challenges facing the biological integrity of the shared Great Lakes.
Because of the numerous twisting rivers, canals and backwater channels leading into the lakes, it is exponentially difficult to stop the entry of certain species of fish, mollusks and algae which been classified as dangerous and invasive to the native species and ecosystem.
A court resolution is pending to decide whether Chicago area shipping locks will be permanently closed to halt the migration of Asian carp. However, there is heated debate as to whether this would be effective and critical of how such a move would interfere with existing shipping routes. Officials are also aware that Asian carp and other species may simply take alternative routes into the Great Lakes, leading them to call for better solutions.
The key stakeholders in the debate include the government, scientists and environmentalists, and the challenge lies in formulating a mutually agreed upon plan to solve this issue.
The Army Corps of Engineers is currently conducting a study around the Great Lakes to identify any and all alternative pathways that exist. They’re also attempting to gather data on all the invasive species that are currently threatening to disrupt the world’s largest collection of freshwater lakes.
The multi-year study will cost the U.S. government around $25 million, but officials estimate it will increase before being completed in 2015. The study was initiated due to the Water Resources Development Act by Congress in 2007.
Army Corps’ Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Commander, Maj. Gen. John Peabody, says the study itself is massive and complex, centering on dozens of species that naturally migrate.
The Asian carp species was inadvertently introduced to the United States in the 1970’s from China, and since then has dramatically disrupted fish biospheres in the Mississippi, through Illinois and approaching Lake Michigan – one of the five Great Lakes shared by both Canada and the United States.
Photo of an Asian Carp by Kate Gardiner