It’s nice to be able to report good news on this topic, and this news is big.
Remember how many times I’ve emphasized that we must implement a permanent solution to stopping the Asian carp invasion? Well, the only way to guarantee that carp would not move through the canals into Lake Michigan is to create a physical barrier between the Mississippi River system and the Great Lakes – hydrological separation. And in order to create that physical barrier the Army Corps of Engineers must first complete a feasibility study. But the law directing them to do the study was vague, and by all reports the Corps is not intending to take a hard look at hydrological separation.
Today the Great Lakes Congressional delegation took a big step toward hydrological separation. Led by senators from Michigan, Ohio and Illinois — yes, Illinois, too — the Great Lakes Congressional Task Force sent a letter to their Senate colleagues calling for legislation to direct the Corps to do a study of hydrological separation. Now, this is a study, not an order for action, but it’s an essential step and it’s the right step. Illinois Senator Durbin has really stepped up here, joining Michigan’s Senators Levin and Stabenow and Ohio’s Senator Voinovich in leading this Great Lakes protection effort. You can read the environmental community’s positive reaction to the letter.
Senators Durbin, Levin, Stabenow, and Voinoich, and the other 9 Senators who also signed the letter, recognize that hyrdological separation is not only essential for saving the Great Lakes ecosystem, but if done right can be of great benefit to improving Chicago’s transportation system, lowering transportation costs for businesses in Chicago and throughout the region, better cleaning Chicago’s wastewater, and bringing federal investment and jobs into the city. In other words, hydrological separation can be a win for the Great Lakes, the city of Chicago, and the entire region.
Congress should act quickly on the recommendations in the letter. Of course, the Corps doesn’t have to wait for Congress to authorize a new study. It should take the hint from these Senators and get started on a hydro sep study right away.
I hope this regional unity on this study is the beginning of a trend. The Great Lakes community is an incredible political force when we’re unified; just look at our successes the past two years on Great Lakes restoration funding and the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact. Now facing one of the most serious threats to the lakes in decades, we need that unity more than ever. Our Great Lakes senators are moving us in that direction, and just in time.