An Ontario tourist attraction, the Big
Chute marine railway on the Trent-Severn
Waterway lifts boats 60 feet uphill.
of 2013, but the Corps has already predicted
that it won’t be done in time.
The legislative caucus, in its letter, urges
the Corps to take a good look at another
study by Eder’s Great Lakes Commission,
which recommends what many see as a
definitive solution for the carp problem, as
well as any other invaders that may try to
jump watersheds in the future: Cut the link
once and for all. The plan has the advantage
of finality, but it comes with its own unintended consequences. In fact, for boaters, it
could put a crimp in America’s Great Loop.
and die, depleting the oxygen that other
forms of life need to survive. Chicago isn’t
the only contributor, but the U.S. Geological
Survey identified it as a primary source. In
2010, several environmental groups filed a
lawsuit against Chicago to stop polluting the
water in the Gulf, some 1,500 miles away.
“There’s a real sense of urgency,” says
Eder. “We have a crisis on our hands. If the
Asian carp get into the Great Lakes, it’s going
to put a real dent in boating, fishing, and rec-
reation.” Eder says his group looked at three
schemes for separating the watersheds, rang-
ing from a single barrier some 30 miles down-
stream to five barriers next to Lake Michigan.
“The solution that turned out to be just right
is in the middle, with four barriers.”
The Sanitary and Ship Canal is named for its
dual purposes. It was designed to provide a
transit link (the New Orleans Times-Picayune
greeted its completion 113 years ago by say-
ing, “Next to Chicago, New Orleans ought
to secure the best returns from the canal,
which has not cost it one cent ….”), but it
was also a means of waste disposal. Chicago
takes its drinking water from Lake Michigan,
so it could then pump its waste into the river.
PHOTO: JOHN VETTERLI
At the other end of the Illinois and
Mississippi rivers, in the Gulf of Mexico,
there’s a “dead zone” covering as much as
8,000 square miles of water in some years.
Excess nutrients — mainly phosphorus and
nitrogen — annually cause algae to bloom
Charles Melching, an environmental engi-
neer who is consulting on the Corps study,
says it’s not as simple as shutting off the flow.
“Imagine if instead of all these nutrients hav-
ing thousands of miles to go through, they
were all going into southern Lake Michigan,”
he says. The southern part of the lake is
fairly stagnant, Melching says. If the Chicago
waterway were cut off from the Mississippi,
carp might not be able to make a home in
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