Army Corps report: Carp battle could cost billions
BY MIKE NOLAN firstname.lastname@example.org January 6, 2014 6:22PM
Asian carp on display at the Shedd Aquarium in this file photo. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a report outlining options for dealing with the invasive fish. | File Photo
Updated: February 8, 2014 6:26AM
New barriers aimed at stopping invasive Asian carp from gaining a foothold in the Great Lakes — and reservoirs dotting the Southland to control flooding that those measures would cause — are outlined in a report released Monday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The battle against the carp and other invasive organisms will be costly and take years to implement, according to the report, which was being sent to Congress and was mandated by legislation in the summer of 2012.
Physical barriers — including locks on waterways such as the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal — are among options the corps is presenting, along with new water treatment plants to filter out invasive species. Most of the alternatives being proposed have multibillion-dollar price tags.
Of the eight options outlined in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study, the corps isn’t recommending any one alternative over another. One option includes maintaining the current methods being employed for controlling the carp, including electric barriers and commercial fishing operations.
One proposal put forth calls for new locks in Stickney on the Sanitary and Ship Canal, as well as on the Calumet-Sag Channel in Alsip, and water treatment plants at both sites. The locks would be opened only to allow vessels to pass through.
To offset flooding that the barriers would cause, the corps is proposing huge new stormwater reservoirs at two locations where flood-control reservoirs already are in place — at quarries in McCook and Thornton — as well as a 90-acre, 200 million-gallon reservoir in Oak Lawn. It would be located on land northeast of Cicero Avenue and 115th Street, adjacent to St. Casimir Lithuanian Cemetery.
As part of the flood-control component of that option, 10 miles of tunnels would be needed to divert water to those reservoirs, according to the plan, which estimates it would cost $15.5 billion and take a quarter-century to fully implement.
Even more costly would be a complete separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins, which would also take 25 years to complete and run an estimated $18.4 billion, according to the study.
That too would involve erecting physical barriers, including one on the Calumet River in Calumet City, and require the need for water treatment plants and new flood-control reservoirs in McCook and Thornton.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement that option would be “one of the most costly water projects in the nation” and might never be realized.
“I have seen too many of these long-term corps projects languish for years and fall victim to congressional inaction,” Durbin said. “We can’t gamble with the threat of Asian carp invading the Great Lakes or risk severe flood damage to the Chicago metropolitan area by pursuing a risky plan at the expense of our current efforts.”
Bighead and silver carp were imported from Asia in the 1970s to devour algae in fish ponds and sewage plants in southern states.
They escaped during floods and have migrated northward, infesting the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and tributaries in more than two dozen states. Scientists say they can destabilize ecosystems by devouring plankton, a vital link in aquatic food chains.