March 23, 2007
Utility's Proposal to Turn Up the Heat on Chicago Waterways Draws Fire
A proposal unveiled by one of Illinois largest power companies would attempt to increase its discharge of heated wastewater to the Chicago River system under the guise of blocking Asian carp from moving into Lake Michigan.
The proposal, made during a meeting of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in late March to discuss water quality standards for the Chicago River system, immediately drew criticism from the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
Midwest Generations proposal to increase its discharge of heat pollution -- using Asian carp terrorist fish, in the companys words -- as an excuse to relax standards, takes the Chicago River down the wrong path, said Dale Bryson, chairman of the Alliances board of directors, who attended the public meeting.
Asian carp, able to eat up to 40 percent of their body weight daily in plankton -- which help form the base of the food chain -- could devastate the Great Lakes if they enter Lake Michigan via the Chicago River system. Already the fish have been found some 40 miles downstream from Lake Michigan.
The Alliance is supporting local and regional efforts to both clean up the Chicago River and stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. Overheating the Chicago River system, however, would harm not only Asian carp -- but would take out most aquatic life along a more than 20-mile stretch of the river.
The problem with the proposal is it would kill off indigenous life that weve invested decades in trying to bring back, Bryson said. If we intend to ecologically separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River, its essential to bring the Chicago River into compliance with the Clean Water Act.
Formed in 1970, the Alliance for the Great Lakes (formerly the Lake Michigan Federation) is the oldest citizens' Great Lakes organization in North America. Its mission is to conserve and restore the world's largest freshwater resource using policy, education and local efforts, ensuring a healthy Great Lakes and clean water for generations of people and wildlife. More about the Alliance is online at www.greatlakes.org.
Alliance for the Great Lakes