Should Chicago be forced to close its Canal to stop Asian Carp from invading the Great Lakes?
Since their introduction into ponds in Arkansas in the early 1970's, Asian Carp have gradually expanded their range throughout the Mississippi River basin. Now, the members of this invasive specie are one canal away from invading Lake Michigan. The Chicago Canal, a 100+ year old man-made waterway originally designed to dump Chicago's sewage into the Lake, provides the only link between the Mississippi basin and the Great Lakes.. Closing the canal is recommended as a temporary measure to buy time for more permanent barriers to be engineered. But the Canal supports a large transport, boating and fishing industry, which would be devastated by the closure.
The State of Illinois has fought efforts to close the canal, and recently it won a decisive victory in the US Supreme Court when the Court refused to hear a lawsuit brought by several States and Canadian provinces to force Illinois to close the Canal. For the Canal to be closed now, the Federal government would have to step in. But that would take an Act of Congress. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mi) and 6 co-sponsors, mostly from States bordering the Great Lakes, introduced a bill (S2946) in January, the "Close All Routes and Prevent Asian Carp Today Act of 2010". The bill is waiting to be taken up by the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee. To gain traction, members of Congress (especially members of the Committee) from other states would have to get serious about supporting it. Should Congress pass this bill? Will it be successful in saving the Great Lakes from what some advocates predict would be an unmitigated disaster for the Great Lakes' native fish, and the fishermen who depend on them? Is it worth the costs that would be borne by the Chicago Canal's businesses and the taxpayer?