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Decision looms on closing lock to stop Asian carp

December 04, 2009 at 04:02 PM

Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO (AP) - A decision could come within days on whether to temporarily close a vital Chicago area shipping waterway in an increasingly desperate bid to stop the invasive Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes, an Obama administration adviser said Friday.

Cameron Davis, the Great Lakes adviser to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told The Associated Press that discussions were under way about shutting the O’Brien Lock while crews poison part of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to kill the giant carp.

“It’s going to happen soon,” he said about a decision. “We’re talking, best guess, within the next two or three days.”

Before making a final decision, officials want to finish searching for Asian carp and conduct other tests along the canal to pinpoint where they might be located, Davis said. If officials do choose to close the lock, it would shut down immediately.

Authorities are trying to make sure the voracious carp don’ t reach Lake Michigan where they could starve out smaller, less aggressive competitors and cause the collapse of the $7 billion-a-year Great Lakes sport and commercial fishing industry.

But closing the lock could also disrupt the movement of millions of tons of iron ore, coal, grain, salts and other goods.

The American Waterways Operators, a trade group representing the tug and barge industry, said Friday that a safety zone set up by the U.S. Coast Guard to search for Asian carp near the O’Brien Lock already made it impassable for commercial vessels.

“De facto it is closed ... They’re playing with words on this,” said Lynn Muench, a senior vice president for the group. “Our vessels cannot go through to Lake Michigan. We cannot transit.” She expected traffic to be restricted for up to eight days.

The closure of the locks, especially for any longer period of time, could result in sharply higher shipping costs because commodities would have to be sent overland by truck or train.

A sense of urgency among environmentalists rose on Thursday after officials said they found a single Asian carp during a fish-kill operation this week in another part of the canal. It was the closest that an actual fish has been found to Lake Michigan.

Last month, officials said they found DNA evidence that the carp may have breached an electrical barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal that is meant to hold back the fish from the lakes. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and five environmental groups have threatened to sue if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to force it to temporarily shut three locks near Chicago over fears the carp will creep into the Great Lakes.

The carp - which can grow to 4 feet long and 100 pounds and are known for leaping out of the water when boats are near - were imported by Southern fish farms in the 1970s but escaped into the Mississippi in large numbers during flooding in the 1990s and have been m aking their way northward ever since.

The Mississippi and the Great Lakes are connected by a complex, 250-mile network of rivers and canals engineered more than a century ago. It runs from Chicago, on the southern edge of Lake Michigan, to a spot on the Mississippi just north of St. Louis.

In the ongoing battle against the Asian carp, environmental officials began dumping poison Wednesday in a nearly six-mile stretch of the canal to kill off any Asian carp while the electrical barrier was turned off for maintenance. Work was expected to finish on Saturday.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

I have some questions about the asian carp and this situation. Given that we know they escaped from farm ponds in the south and traveled the Mississippi to get into the Illinois, have I missed something or do we never hear of asian carp moving north in the Miss? If they are not what is being done to keep them from spreading north? Along with that I haven’t heard too much about them spreading throughout the Missouri or Ohio rivers either, is this just because it doesn’t get reported, is it actually not happening or am I just flat out not hearing about it?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/04 at 05:50 PM

Jake, I think that likely you just don’t hear about them in those watersheds because you don’t live near those watersheds.
Have you “heard” about them in our other illinois river systems?
The Kaskaskia?
Salt Creek?
Big Muddy?
In ten years, they will be just as common as the common carp has become.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/04 at 11:16 PM

That’s what I was afraid of, I live up by the Rock River and have only heard of a couple sightings there. I fish a few of it’s tributaries 1 of which, the Green River, meets the Rock just before the Rock hits the Mississippi. Luckily in these waters I have yet to see any there. I guess what I am wondering then is when will it become a concern that these things will get in the Great Lakes via some other river? Shouldn’t precautions be taken to stop their spread in other watersheds whether they reach the Great Lakes or not?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/05 at 09:57 AM

they’re already as common as the common carp between canton missouri and keokuk iowa on the mississippi,and the reason they’re not taking any more precautions to limit their range is the fact that there is nothing they can do to stop learn where they like to hang out(slack water on inside of bends and wing dams)and avoid those places,otherewise you’re going to have them in your boat tearing the hell out of doesn’t matter how much the govn.spends trying to keep them out of the great lakes.they’ll be there.if nothing else a heron or eagle will drop a couple to get it started.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/06 at 12:12 AM

Couple more questions then, is the link between the Illinois River and Lake Michigan the only link between the Mississippi and the Great Lakes? If there are more does anyone know if barriers are being put into place in any of these other waters? Jeff I saw that about Michigan I am almost surprised that the other states with connections to the Great Lakes haven’t followed suit.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/07 at 12:36 PM

who are they suing the catfish farmers?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/08 at 02:35 AM

Actually they are suing the state of Illinois to force the closure of the the Chicago locks. Here is one of a few links that tell the story  If it doesn’t work search Michigan sues Illinois

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/08 at 04:48 PM

Most of the catfish farmers went broke that year when the Miss River flooded. There are issues like this all over the country. In California, talapia are closing out traditional crappie and sunfish hotspots and in Florida, tropical fish like Oscars are closing out the red-eared sunfish. I am surprised that Nate Herman doesn’t have some thoughts on this.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/10 at 02:56 PM

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