Diverse stakeholders request funding to develop aquatic invasive species solutions

Healthy Water Solutions February 2016 News Update. Read on to learn about:

Diverse stakeholders request funding to develop aquatic invasive species solutions

The Chicago Area Waterway System Advisory Committee - a diverse stakeholder group representing business, environment, government, and other sectors - this week issued a letter to President Obama requesting funding for targeted, critical next steps needed to prevent the transfer of aquatic invasive species (AIS) between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River.

Now we need Congress to direct the United States Army Corps of Engineers, in cooperation with key partners and regional stakeholders, to take deliberate action to conduct the targeted studies essential to inform a solution. Namely, we need a transportation study, a hydrologic study, and the Brandon Road Lock and Dam site feasibility study to be completed swiftly and effectively to get us closer to actual implementation.

Healthy Water Solutions, whose members sit on the Committee, regards these studies to be essential next steps to developing solutions to stop AIS. And urgency is imperative, as Asian carp continue to encroach upon the Great Lakes (see the story below on new findings of Asian carp larvae and eggs in the Upper Illinois Waterway).

As part of a multi-year process, and building from the GLMRIS and Restoring the Natural Divide studies, the Committee studied and dialogued about the multiple functions and users of the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS), and how the needs of the system might be met while achieving AIS prevention.

The letter, developed as a consensus product of all participating Committee members, asks President Obama to fund the study of a “system of possible control points in the CAWS” that would prevent the transfer of AIS. As part of studying such a system, the letter includes specific requests to study:

  1. Whether an AIS lock or system of AIS locks can be designed and implemented in the CAWS to be effective at two-way prevention, compared to other alternatives, including what is known to be most effective; and
  2. Whether and how control points could be implemented consistent with the mid-system locations identified in several GLMRIS alternatives.

Control points placed at “mid-system locations” would roughly approximate the natural divide that existed between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basin before canals artificially connected them at the end of the 19th century. According to GLMRIS, mid-system control points might be considerably less expensive, requiring less mitigation to wastewater and flood control systems.

The Committee previously issued a letter in August 2015 requesting inquiry into the development of a lock treatment system and associated technologies to be deployed at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam. Such a system would serve to block the upstream movement of Asian carp at a critical choke point in the CAWS while a more permanent solution – one that prevents AIS movement towards the Mississippi as well as towards the Great Lakes – is developed.

The full CAWS Advisory Committee recommendation letter can be viewed here: http://glc.org/files/projects/caws/CAWS-AC-Long-Term-Ltr-January-2016-1.pdf

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Asian carp larvae found 90 miles closer to Lake Michigan than previously detected

In January 2016 the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee released new sampling data and it contained concerning information. Sampling conducted last June found Asian carp larvae in the Dresden Island pool of the Des Plaines River. Around this same time, Asian carp eggs were also found in the Marseilles and Starved Rock pools of the Illinois River.

This marks the most-upstream collection of larval fish to date, roughly 90 miles closer to Lake Michigan than larval fish had been detected in previous years’ samplings. The finding raises serious concerns over Asian carp advancement.

That larval fish have been detected this far upstream is particularly troubling in light of recent evidence that the electric barrier may be vulnerable to small fish being pulled through by barge traffic. Additionally, other reports from 2015 indicate that small carp continue to move toward the Great Lakes.

Meanwhile, a recent study shows that if Asian carp establish in the Great Lakes, they could overtake Lake Erie, claiming up to one-third of its biomass.

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Clean water investments create jobs, boost Illinois’ economy

Clean water projects in Illinois created thousands of jobs and provided billions of dollars in economic return in 2014 alone, according to a recent joint report from Sierra Club Illinois and the Chicago Federation of Labor.

The report found that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) and the city of Chicago’s water management department created or saved a total of 19,400 jobs in 2014 and provided a nearly $2 billion boost to the region’s economy through their respective “operations and construction expenditures.”

The reports key findings include:

  • For every $1 billion invested in clean water infrastructure, approximately 11,200 jobs are created throughout the economy and there is an 8% one-year GDP Return on Investment.
  • In the Chicago area, clean water investments boost the regional economy by nearly $2 billion and lower the unemployment rate by 0.7 percentage points.
  • Employment in the water infrastructure sector increases an Illinois worker’s hourly earnings by 10.1 percent on average, providing a personal benefit that roughly equates to an additional year of schooling.

Investments are needed to fund innovative projects and improvements to existing infrastructure, creating many new jobs while protecting Illinois’ water resources. Algae blooms caused by nutrient pollution, aquatic invasive species moving between watersheds, and discharges of untreated sewage into lakes and rivers are a few of the threats to clean water that demand swift action. Pursuing these investments would create thousands of jobs and spur the region’s economy.

Read the full report here:

Posted January 31, 2016