Illinois hunting and fishing

A commercial fisherman’s catch waits to be unloaded at Big River Fish in Pearl. Chris Young/The State Journal-Register.

Sen. Dick Durbin introduces bill to separate Great Lakes from Mississippi River Basin

March 07, 2011 at 08:37 AM

U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) have sponsored legislation to separate Lake Michigan from canals linking it to the Mississippi River Basin in an effort to stop the spread of invasive species such as Asian carp.

U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The “Stop Asian Carp Act” would require development of a plan to permanently separate Lake Michigan from the Chicago Area Waterway System.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also would be required to develop a system to transfer goods from Lake Michigan to tributaries of the Mississippi, including the Illinois River, without the use of canals currently in use.

Lawmakers are concerned that Asian carp could harm Lake Michigan’s $7 billion fishing industry and $16 billion recreational boating industry.

Efforts to force the closure of locks linking canals with Lake Michigan have been unsuccessful and are opposed by shipping interests.

Other Great Lakes states tried to force Illinois to close the locks through legal action, but the courts have said no.

The Mississippi River Basin was not connected to the Great Lakes until engineers reversed the flow of the Chicago River just over a century ago.

Sewage from the City of Chicago was flowing into Lake Michigan where the city’s residents were getting their drinking water.

The reversal sent sewage downstream and away from Chicago.

Asian carp have spread rapidly since their introduction to the Mississippi River from aquaculture operations in the southern United States in the 1970s.

They are so numerous they now outweigh all other fish in the Illinois River.

Five Senate members and 21 House members have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.