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Experts say lock closure costs exaggerated

February 18, 2010 at 03:27 PM

AP Environmental Writer

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Government officials and Illinois businesses are overstating the economic pain that would result from closing Chicago-area shipping locks to block the Asian carp’s path to the Great Lakes, two transportation specialists said Thursday.

Costs of transporting and handling cargo on Chicago waterways would rise by about $70 million a year if two locks were shut as Michigan and neighboring states want, said Wayne State University business professor John Taylor and James Roach, a transportation consultant.

That’s a tiny fraction of the city’s $521 billion economy and much less damage than the $7 billion fishing industry could suffer from a carp invasion, Taylor and Roach said in a telephone conference. They were hired by the Michigan attorney general’s office to conduct the study and said they’d been paid less than $50,000.

They acknowledged closure would have “negative impacts” on Chicago barge and tour boat operators b ut said freight could be transferred to rail cars, trucks or pipelines without substantial new costs or traffic jams.

“The claims that even a temporary closure will devastate the local economy and Illinois’ role in the regional, national and global economy cannot reasonably be supported,” Roach said.

Taylor and Roach are serving as expert witnesses in Michigan’s lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to order closure of the locks and eventual separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.

Their analysis shows likely harm to Chicago is “dramatically less” than its business and political leaders claim, said John Selleck, spokesman for Mike Cox, Michigan’s attorney general.

“The losses would be much higher than that,” responded Lynn Muench, vice president of the American Waterway Operators, a trade group representing barge and tug companies.

Her organization has not calculated cost estimates but the Illinois Chamber of Commerce is condu cting a study, said Jim Farrell, director of its infrastructure council.

More than $16 billion worth of goods are transported on Illinois rivers annually, Farrell said in a Supreme Court affidavit. State officials said shipping cargo through just one lock - the O’Brien - costs $190 million a year less than transporting it on land.

“The economic harm that will result from the closure of the O’Brien and the Chicago locks is real and significant,” Farrell said.

Taylor and Roach said shutting the locks wouldn’t halt shipping on the 70-mile-long network of canals and rivers. Instead, freight could be unloaded below the locks and hauled a short distance in trucks, rail cars or pipelines. That would create more jobs than the barge industry would lose, they said.

About 7 million tons of cargo a year would be affected - less than 1 percent of freight traffic in the Chicago area, the study said, adding that affected barge traffic would be the equivalent of two loaded railroad trains.

Farrell said the report failed to consider higher costs and unemployment resulting from freight traffic disruption, while understating the locks’ importance to shipping.

During the year beginning June 2008, more than 3,800 loaded barges passed through the O’Brien lock, the equivalent of 306,000 truckloads, he said.

During two recent public meetings, dozens of tour boat company workers said closing the locks would put them out of business.

The debate has overshadowed a wide-ranging battle plan announced by the Obama administration this month. It includes more than two dozen actions, including use of nets and poisons to nab Asian carp that may have slipped beyond an electric barrier 25 miles south of Lake Michigan.

Illinois authorities began netting and electrofishing operations Wednesday and continued Thursday but had yet to catch any of the despised fish, despite DNA test results suggesting their presence in the waterway.

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I find it hard to believe that a politician would lie to us!

Posted by HawgNSonsTV on 02/18 at 06:50 PM

If the other Great Lakes states are so worried about non-native species invading the Great Lakes, close down the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Far, far more injurious species and deseases have entered the Lakes via ballast water from ocean-going ships.  Oh, and while we are at it, lets irradicate coho and chinook salmon, rainbow and brown trout…all stocked species, which are part of the $7 billion fishery those states are touting.
Let’s get real.  I hope the asian carp don’t reach Lake Michigan, but they are probably already there, via flooding on the DesPlaines or bait buckets.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/18 at 11:32 PM

“their is all kinds of non native fish in the lakes anyway so who cares about 1 more new species! people let them ruin the illinois river fishing so why not let them ruin the lakes, cuz i dont care!!!” THE WORDS OF A TRUE CONSERVATIONIST! Let them ruin the domestic fishing industry we can always buy one more thing from China.  Where did “Asian” Carp come from??

Posted by Metallicat85 on 02/19 at 07:50 AM

What damage is expected from the asian carp entering the great lakes.  The Illinois river catfish seem to be doing just fine.  I’m sure the salmon and trout would just consume young asian carp as a food source.  The only real damage will occur to the egos of the pleasure boaters…deal with it!  Closing the canals would only hurt the economy.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/19 at 08:11 AM

What I was pointing out is that Michigan and the other states are carrying on about “non-native” species, while much of the Great Lakes $7 billion fishery is based on NON-NATIVE fish.  The Great Lakes are FAR from a pristine ecosystem. Instead, being maintained by intensive stocking of “non-native” species by all the Lakes states. 
I also find it ironic that for decades harmful mussels, fish and diseases have entered the Great Lakes and eventually the Illinois River via the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Biologists in Illinois have long recommended the closure of the Sanitary & Ship Canal to halt these invasions.  Those pleas fell on deaf ears, due to the political influence of Chicago and complete lack of concern by the other Great Lakes states.  Now, for the first time, the Great Lakes may be threatened by an organism entering the Great Lakes from the Illinois River and it’s a major disaster.  Where was the outrage by these johnny-come-lately environmentalists when the zebras, quaggas, gobies, spiny water fleas and VHS was entering our rivers, brought into the Great Lakes in ballast water of ocean-going ships?  They were silent.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/19 at 09:23 AM

Ok guys i got GREAT news…THE ASIAN CARP ARE ALREADY IN THE LAKE. I just talk to a reliable source, that told me that at lest 1 person has caught five big head carp in a harbor on the south side. There is a gag order on this individual. I am trying to find out more specifics and when I do, I will pass it on to you.

Posted by HawgNSonsTV on 02/19 at 02:59 PM

Good points riverrat47. As I understand it the lake trout were the dominant predator of the Great Lakes. They crashed in the 40s-50s due in part to the alewives that came in from the Atlantic. Alewives eat laker eggs & fry and cause reproduction problems in lakers. It was then decided in the 60s to introduce coho & chinook from the pacific to eat the alwives. Now the alwives populations are managed to support the salmon fishing industry that is the Great Lakes because without the alwives the salmon would crash and so would the fishing industry. This has already happened in Lake Huron in 04,some say that the zebra and quagga mussel has caused the crash of the alewives and with them the salmon and half of the charter fishing on Huron. The good news for some people, with the loss of the alewives and salmon, the native lakers and walleye are making a come back. It seems that the Great Lakes fishing is propped up by taxpayer money. Isn’t that kind of like a perpetual stimulus package?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/19 at 03:49 PM

I live in Chicago and fish in Lake Michigan just about every week.  I haven’t heard of any asian carp being caught but I’m sure its just a matter of time.  One thing I have noticed is a huge increase in the number of northern pike.  From 2000-2008 I caught three northern pike from the shore.  In 2009 I caught 6.  From talking to other anglers they have noticed this too.  I wonder if the introduction of asian carp would beneficially affect the pike population as they would be an abundant food source.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/19 at 08:03 PM

is it just me or is hawg n son’s just getting some free advertising on here? normally its just a one sentance blurb near the top of the comment section where everyone will see it

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/20 at 11:26 PM

Tell Chicago to embrace the Asian carp like we do here in central Illinois, it gets me that Chicago always has to get all of our tax money, makes me sick!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/21 at 04:56 PM

I like how these “experts” were hired by the state of Michigan. I bet not one of them have ever been south of I-80. I could care less what these people have to say. The fact of the matter is shutting the locks will cost everyone in the state of Illinois. It is still my feeling that these fish are already in the great lakes, but have not had the population explosion like there has been in the rivers south. My guess is because the “experts” are compairing deep, clear, cold lake water to shallow, warm, organic river water. There just is not the right enviroment to support such numbers of carp like we see on the Illinois and Mississippi. According to all information the carp came into the Mississippi down south during the flood of 1993. In 1994 I saw my first bighead carp caught in a gill net near Havana. So these “experts” are telling me that these carp traveled from the deep south to Havana Illinois in one year but have not made it from Havana to Chicago in 16 years?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/21 at 08:08 PM

Just to add to a couple of comments here. Yes, the carp will provide a food source for other fish. Now some “expert” will tell you that the fish grow to fast to be a good source of food, but they are not going to grow as fast in cold lake water as warm river water, plus they spawn off and on all year so there are always small fish for food. I have fished the river my entire life and have never seen catfish like we have had in the past few years on the Illinois. The fish are healthy and bigger than ever. I do not even fish the spawn anymore when the fishing is the best because the nets fill to fast and the market is flooded with catfish. Even fishing what are usually less productive times in the fall and and late winter the catfishing is often times unreal. 20 years ago a hoopnet with 150 pounds of catfish was a good hit, now nets with 400 plus pounds are common.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/21 at 08:37 PM

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