In response to the cries about the Asian carp threatening to invade the Great Lakes, Congress has asked the Chicago District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prepare a feasibility study to investigate the potential environmental, economic and social effects of the measures being considered that would implement a range of possible modifications to the electric barriers, the only present-day battlefields against the carp. These adjustments would improve the efficacy and the evaluation of other fish deterrents and additional barriers in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS).
The CAWS covers Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC), the Calumet rivers, the Calumet Harbor and the Calumet-Sag Channel. Other studies could be initiated later that would involve the hydrological severance and reversal of the direction of the Chicago River, returning it to its original course into Lake Michigan. This would entail the physical separation of the CSSC from the Illinois River and would halt all navigation between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River.
Formidable issues would remain: What would be done with the sewage-laden Chicago River if it could no longer flow into Lake Michigan before the costly removal of the waste and cleaning of the water? Reversing the course of the Chicago River could be an attainable engineering feat, at an astronomical cost, by reconfiguring the massive underground tunnels that were designed 100 years ago. Adding this cost to real estate taxes is an unaffordable option.
Reversing the direction of the Chicago River is the wish of every environmentalist that abhors what was done a century ago. Was the decision well-researched before its execution? It’s not difficult to understand that there may have been a rush to judgment in the days of the stockyards, when the river was used as a dumping ground. Were the environmentalists of those days too short-sighted to predict that invasive species might threaten the Great Lakes? Five Great Lakes states are suing for the immediate and permanent sealing of the Chicago locks, where all of the CAWS watersheds intersect with Lake Michigan.
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