Congress Holds Hearing to Debate Closing Chicago-Area Locks

Water expert warns that closing the locks is the only way to keep Asian carp and other invasive species out.

A Great Lakes expert warned members of a U.S. House subcommittee Tuesday that closing off the canals that link Chicago to the freshwater bodies is the only way to keep invasive species like Asian carp from migrating in and out.

“This is not just about Asian carp,” David Lodge, director of the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Aquatic Conservation, told members of a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee, the Detroit Free Press reported. Lodge noted that other invasive species including zebra and quagga mussels and round gobies, an invasive bottom-dwelling fish, have already migrated out of the Great Lakes via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Michigan and several other states are pushing for immediate closure of the canals to prevent Asian carp from devastating the region’s $7 billion sportfishing industry. The Obama administration has pledged $78.5 million to the Asian carp fight, but does not support an immediate closure, while Illinois officials oppose closing the locks because of the potential economic damage to the Chicago area.

Michigan and Wisconsin officials who spoke at the subcommittee hearing repeated their calls to close two navigation locks in the Chicago area as part of the effort to keep the carp from the lakes, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. They also argued for a permanent separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River basin.

Attendees at Tuesday’s subcommittee hearing included two Asian carp, shipped from Illinois by cooler to help illustrate the danger that the fish pose to the world’s largest freshwater source.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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