Press Release

On The Heels of Report That Found Separating Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin Would Effectively Prevent Spread of Asian Carp, Schumer, Gillibrand Call on Army Corps To Expedite Their Study

Feb 16, 2012

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand joined with Great Lakes Senators urging the Army Corps of Engineers to rapidly complete their study on using hydraulic separation to prevent the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes and New York’s waterways. A new report released this month found that separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins would be an effective way of keeping Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes and prevent the potential billions in damage the fish could cause. Last year, Asian carp were found six miles from the Great Lakes, prompting Senator Gillibrand to urge the Army Corps to temporarily close the O’Brien and Chicago Locks to prevent the invasive species from spreading into New York’s waterways.

“Fishing in the Great Lakes is a major industry in Western New York, and we need to act swiftly and decisively to save it from the looming threat of Asian carp,” said Senator Schumer. “The new report shows that separating the Chicago Waterway from the Great Lakes is the right way to move forward, and the Army Corps should take that to heart. I’m hopeful that this study will kick this effort into high gear, so that we can give Lake Erie the protection it needs and deserves.” 

“This report confirms that hydrological separation of the Chicago Area Waterway System and the Great Lakes is not only feasible, but necessary and the most effective long-term option to stopping the flow of Asian Carp and other invasive species into the Great Lakes,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The fishing industry in the Great Lakes region contributes more than $7 billion to the regional economy and the diverse and delicate ecosystem that fuels this commerce must be protected. Already, invasive species cost the Great Lake states more than $200 million each year. The Army Corps of Engineers should use this thorough analysis to expedite their study. Asian Carp threaten the economic vitality of the region and if unstopped, could significantly impact fishing in Lake Erie. Action must be taken to stop this urgent threat. ” 

A hydrological separation would provide a physical blockade on the Chicago Area Waterway System to disconnect the Mississippi River watershed from the Lake Michigan watershed, preventing aquatic species from transferring between the two bodies of water. Last week’s study conducted by the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative found that restoring the natural separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basis could prevent an estimated $200 million in annual damages that Asian Carp could cause if they successfully infiltrated in to the Great Lakes. The plan would roughly cost families about $1 per month until 2059 to cover the cost of separating the bodies of water. 

Asian carp are large, prolific and consume vast amounts of food – weighing up to 100 pounds and growing as long as four feet – disrupting the food chain that supports native fish. Their large size, ravenous appetites and rapid rate of reproduction pose a significant threat to New York’s ecosystem. This aggressive invasive species could destroy the Great Lakes fish populations, devastating the $7 billion recreational fishing industry, boating industry, tourism industry and the general economic well being of the entire region.    

The economy and the ecosystem of the entire Great Lakes region are at risk because of the imminent threat of the invasive Asian carp. Current efforts to control the spread of Asian carp include two electrical barriers around Chicago where the Mississippi River links to the Great Lakes.  However, these efforts have fallen short, as illustrated by evidence indicating that Asian carp may have migrated past the electrical barrier.  

The text of Senators letter is below:

The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy

Assistant Secretary of the Army

Department of the Army, Civil Works

108 Army Pentagon

Washington, DC  20310-0108 

Dear Secretary Darcy:

As Members of Congress who care deeply about the Great Lakes and the economic and environmental benefits this natural treasure provides, we want to call your attention to a report released on January 31, 2012 by the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.  This report, Restoring the Natural Divide, analyzes various engineering options to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins in the Chicago Area Waterway System to prevent inter-basin movement of harmful aquatic invasive species including Asian carp. 

The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting its own study, the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS), which is a comprehensive study of multiple aquatic pathways and control strategies, including hydrologic separation of the basins.  The new report, Restoring the Natural Divide, provides the Corps with a large amount of information concerning engineering design, economic impacts, flood and stormwater management, and water quality impacts that should be of benefit to the Corps’ analysis of hydrologic separation.  We ask how the Corps will use the thorough analysis provided in this new report, and how the Corps will be able to shorten its timeframe for completing the GLMRIS by incorporating the new information contained in the report. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to your prompt reply.