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GLIN==> Chicago Summit Generates Possible Solutions to Exchange of Harmful Invasive Species in Midwestern Waterways



Posted on behalf of Christine Esposito <terracompr@earthlink.net>



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Chicago Summit Generates Possible Solutions to Exchange of

Harmful Invasive Species in Midwestern Waterways



Leading experts seek to stop Asian carp, zebra mussel and other species from
endangering Great Lakes and Mississippi River basin ecosystems



CHICAGO (May 22, 2003) - Nearly 70 top scientists, engineers and
invasive-species experts from around the globe gathered in Chicago last week
to generate ideas for halting the exchange of invasive species between the
Great Lakes and Mississippi River drainage basins. According to these
experts, invasive species are the greatest threat to both the economy and
ecology of the Great Lakes and are responsible for $137 billion a year in
economic losses nationwide.



Convened by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Chicago Department of
Environment and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Aquatic Invasive
Species Summit was designed to introduce the diverse experts to the Chicago
region's manmade waterway system, and to have them brainstorm solutions to
the transport of invasive species through those waterways.



Non-native species threaten native species. More than 160 non-native species
now live in the Great Lakes drainage basin, and nearly the same number live
in the Mississippi River drainage basin. These two basins are connected by
the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Cal-Sag Channel (CSSC), which
together constitute a "revolving door" for invasive species.



"The longer you put off solving a problem, the more it costs you in the long
run.  An aggressive solution to a problem is almost always cheaper than
repairing the damage later," said Mayor Daley, who recently launched a
comprehensive water agenda initiative that includes protecting the Great
Lakes from harmful invasive species. "Sometimes we have to be bold about it
and not be afraid of taking some active steps protecting us against invasive
species."  The Mayor pointed out that over the last 40 years, a newly
established population of invasive species has been found in the Great Lakes
every eight months.



"We are under attack from biological invaders ranging from microbes to
mammals that threaten our heritage and our health," said Robyn Thorson,
regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "I believe the
threats from invasive species constitute the most important and urgent
environmental challenge of the 21st century, certainly for our region and
perhaps for the planet."



Researchers ticked off a range of startling facts about the aquatic invasive
species problem:



  a.. More than half of the United States is impacted by the zebra mussel.
Introduced into the Great Lakes via ballast water in 1988, the invader
spread via the CSSC to the Mississippi River and other Midwestern river
systems to 28 states. Annual costs associated with removing zebra mussels
from water intakes and other structures total $250 million.


  a.. Asian carp, which are traveling up the CSSC from the Mississippi
River, are within several miles of Lake Michigan and along with other
invaders could severely impact the $4.5 billion commercial sport and fishing
industries in the Great Lakes. These species eat much of the same food as
desirable, native fish, so competition with Asian carp threatens the
abundance and even the existence of native fish species.


-more-

Possible Solutions to Exchange of Harmful Invasive Species / Page 2




  a.. There are nearly 40 native mussel species in the Mississippi River
from the headwaters in Minnesota to southern Illinois, some of which are
federally threatened or endangered. Others are dwindling in numbers due to
habitat decline. The zebra mussel threatens these species with extinction.
And the quagga mussel, introduced into the Great Lakes in 1989 and now
within 50 miles of the CSSC, could further impact them or hasten their
extinction - threatening the biodiversity that is so important to a healthy
region.


An experimental electric barrier designed to repel fish has been operating
in the CSSC for roughly a year. While it is helping to slow the advance of
invasive species, it does not prevent the exchange of all species and life
stages. For example, plankton and species in immature life stages can still
cross the barrier. The barrier has a maximum service life of three years; a
second barrier will be in place by fall 2004.  Members of the Illinois
Congressional Delegation, particularly Sen. Richard Durbin and Rep. Judy
Biggert, have been instrumental in helping to secure funding for these
barriers.  Mayor Daley has strongly supported these efforts as well.



Possible Solutions



The broad range of summit participants agreed that there needs to be a more
proactive, decisive approach to solving the exchange of aquatic invaders
between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. They generated four
general ideas for solving the problem; some are short-term, others are more
long-term. All require significant research into effectiveness and
feasibility. They are:



  a.. Physical barriers at one or more locations in the Chicago Waterway
System to physically
      separate Lake Michigan water from canal water;

  a.. Technological barriers, using electrical or acoustical technologies
for instance, to deter
      fish and other aquatic life from advancing;

  a.. An eradication zone, which would be a stretch along the canal where
methods such as
      removing oxygen from the water or other technologies would eradicate
aquatic life from

      the water;

  a.. A filter or bypass system, which would either filter aquatic life from
the water or divert the organisms into a chamber where they would be
eradicated.


Summit participants also agreed for the need to engage a broad audience and
diverse interests, such as commercial navigation and recreational boaters,
in devising and implementing a solution. They have begun to develop an
action plan for cultivating partnerships; facilitating research; and pursuin
g financial, political and technical support to address short-term and
long-term management of the problem.



Sponsors of the Aquatic Invasive Species Summit were the City of Chicago
Department of Environment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, and the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant
Institute. Additional sponsors and contributors included the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
of Greater Chicago, the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource
Association, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Chicago District and
Waterways Experiment Station, the International Joint Commission, and the
Great Lakes Commission.



Contact: Christine Esposito

               773.637.3939

               terracompr@earthlink.net



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