|Chicago Locks Remain Open for Boating|
On Jan. 27, government officials held a “carp summit” to discuss strategies for preventing Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan, co-hosted by politicians including Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL). These events follow the Obama administration’s announcement of support for the state of Illinois in the Asian carp batt le, and of its opposition to legal actions undertaken by other Great Lakes states. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Michigan in a decision on Jan. 19, refusing to order the closing of Chicago-area waterway locks, it was due partly to the administration’s backing of Illinois. Th is court decision was another step in the batt le to prevent Asian carp from traveling into the Great Lakes from the Sanitary & Ship Canal.
In the midst of this activity, the Great Lakes Boating Federation is calling for a public hearing for all of the regional stakeholders to express their opinions.
The U.S. Supreme Court may still accept lawsuits fi led by five states, including Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin, plus Ontario, the Canadian province, against the state of Illinois. The case would reopen a lawsuit from 1922 that allowed the construction of a shipping canal between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. The U.S. Supreme Court could rule that, that connection, the Sanitary & Ship Canal, be permanently severed.
If successful, the lawsuit could have a devastating effect on the nearly 7,000 mariners who either access the Chicago River from Lake Michigan or vice versa. The river system and the Great Lakes are integral parts of the boating scene in Chicago, and they are used recreationally from April to November each year for boat storage. Approximately 5,000 boaters are moored in the nine harbors in Chicago, with an additional 2,000 moored on the Chicago River. Recreational boaters need a way to travel from Lake Michigan to the cold-weather storage facilities for their vessels, and from the locks to Lake Michigan. Their concerns must be addressed.
In addition, the Great Lakes invasion of Asian carp could have horrific effects on the 73 percent of boaters who sport fish annually. Asian carp have a ferocious appetite, and can weigh up to 100 pounds. They often leap into the air when vessels pass, injuring individuals and damaging boats.
Judging from their dominance in the nearby Illinois and Mississippi rivers, the Asian carp have the potential to greatly disrupt the Great Lakes ecosystem by consuming vast amounts of the plankton that sustain other fish already in the lakes; potentially, they could squeeze out the $7 billion fishing industry in the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes Boating Federation remains steadfast about shutt ing the gates on Asian carp, but not on thousands of local boaters. Mariners on these bodies of water form the group of stakeholders that would most deeply feel the effects of navigating among these predators.