August 24, 2011. Traverse City. A three-Judge panel of the US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against five Great Lakes’ states in their lawsuit aimed at closing the locks connecting the Illinois River and Lake Michigan. Former Mayor Daley, the Port of Chicago and large corporations have succeeded in keeping the locks open however. At risk is a multi-billion dollar industrial region spanning two states versus the death of America’s Great Lakes at the hands of the dreaded Asian Carp.
Ironically, it was large corporations down on the Gulf Coast that brought the Asian Carp disaster to America. Seeking a cheap and natural way to clean their massive fisheries, the corporations transplanted the Asian Carp into their waterways. Knowing the Asian Carp isn’t native to North America and would cause catastrophic destruction to America’s waterways, the giant fisheries swore they could keep the Asian Carp isolated in their ponds and farms. It was a lie. The beastly fish infected the area waterways and soon spread to the Mississippi River. For the past few years, the Carp have slowly made their way up the Mississippi.
Today, the Asian Carp have reached all the way to Chicago. Finding itself the last and final choke-point with the ability to stop the Asian Carp from possibly destroying all the fish of the Great Lakes, the city of Chicago and former Mayor Daley have consistently sided on the side of big business. Closing the locks they say, would devastate the business community. They also argue that the Asian Carp is a warm water fish. While it has so far proved able to adapt to almost any environment, nobody knows if the fish can exist in the colder Great Lakes.
In losing their appeal today, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Minnesota, will have to think of something fast if they want to keep the Carp out of their own individual Great Lakes. The Army Corps of Engineers and government agencies have erected electronic barriers to keep the Carp from crossing through the final checkpoint. But most experts have little faith in the barriers. And considering that it only takes a couple fish to begin a whole new colony of Asian Carp, letting only a handful through would forever kill commercial, sport and recreational fishing in the Great Lakes.
In 2010, the Army Corps of Engineers announced they were spending $25 million to study the Chicago canals and the Asian Carp emergency. While the Corp will ambitiously look at and address other ways the Carp may enter the Great Lakes, such as flooding, their report won’t be released until 2015. With the Asian Carp only a couple miles from the Chicago locks, America doesn’t have until 2015 to find a solution. With a way of life for fishermen on the line, as well as tens of thousands of industrial and commercial jobs, one would hope the government would act as quickly as possible to find a solution. How do we keep the Asian Carp from passing through Chicago into Lake Michigan without closing the locks and shutting down shipping?
Those arguing to close the locks seem to have the moral advantage in the argument. Many a father and son have gone fishing out on the Great Lakes. Those memories may end for all future generations. Those demanding the locks be kept open can only give one reason, higher profits.
In an interview with the News Tribune of Northern Illinois last year, Mark Biel, Chairman of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois explained, “The vast majority of the large facilities are located along the waterways because they access the barges.” Lock closure also will close plants, he said, because loss of barge shipping will trim away their competitive advantage. “We don’t want the Asian Carp in Lake Michigan anymore as anyone else” Biel said, but “we don’t want to be at the mercy of the railroads.”