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Environmental Groups: Close Sanitary And Ship Canal To Stop Asian Carp

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Asian Carp

In concentrated numbers, the leaping Asian carp pose significant danger to boaters navigating the open rivers. But from a purely ecological standpoint, the non-native carp feed primarily on plankton and bacteria, collapsing the food chain. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 01/31/12 11:39 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Two environmentalist groups are the latest to call for a shutdown of the Sanitary and Ship Canal, so as to prevent the spread of the Asian carp into the Great Lakes.

As CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reports, the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative on Tuesday released their Chicago Area Waterways Study, which says if the reviled fish is to be stopped, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin must be separated.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports


“Separating the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River Basin is a key step to protect both the ecological and economic value of the Great Lakes,” Environmental Law and Policy Center director Howard Learner said in a news release. “More than 30 million people live in the Great Lakes Basin and rely on its abundance of freshwater, which is under increasing threat from Asian carp and other invasive species.”

The estimated cost of an engineering project to separate the waterway systems is between $3.2 billion and $9.5 billion, according to published reports. The proposal calls for completion of the project by 2029.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers is conducting its own study to determine how to best choke off the path of the Asian carp to the Great Lakes.

Several other states that bordered the Great Lakes sued unsuccessfully in an effort to force the closure of the canal.

Following the failed lawsuit, attorneys general from six states – Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania – issued a letter asking colleagues along the Mississippi River to encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to close the canal voluntarily.

The Sanitary and Ship Canal opened in 1900, in a legendary feat of civil engineering that reversed the flow of the Chicago River. The river had flowed into Lake Michigan, and sewage and other contaminants were polluting the water supply and leaving Chicagoans stricken with typhoid fever and other deadly diseases.

After the reversal, waste instead flowed southwest away from the lake.

Currently, electronic barriers are in place on the Sanitary and Ship Canal to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

So far, although Asian carp DNA has been found in Lake Michigan, only one actual Asian carp has been found on the lake side of the electronic barriers to date, in Lake Calumet.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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