EDITORIAL: Shutting down waterways sounds fishy

2014-02-16T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Shutting down waterways sounds fishy nwitimes.com
February 16, 2014 12:00 am  • 

As scary as Asian carp are, the prospect of shutting down the link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River watershed is even more scary.

That would cause an estimated $1.9 billion hit to Northwest Indiana's economy. But there are many who want to sever the connection between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes anyway.

U.S. Rep Candice Miller, R-Mich., has introduced a bill that would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct barriers separating the two systems.

That would devastate the shipping industry. About $1.9 billion of the Port of Indiana's $14 billion economic impact each year is derived from goods shipped through the Chicago River, according to a 2010 study.

And setting up a physical barrier would take years to complete, by which time the project could become obsolete. The Asian carp could have spread to Lake Michigan by then anyway.

"The Great Lakes region must address the dangers posed by Asian carp migration, but not in a way that devastates Northwest Indiana's economy," said U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.

Coats is sensitive to the region's business needs. "Separating the Mississippi River from Lake Michigan is a costly, unreasonable solution that will jeopardize Hoosier commerce and jobs," he said.

Kay Nelson, director of environmental affairs for the Northwest Indiana Forum, noted other potential ill effects of severing the Chicago Area Waterway System, including flooding and pollution from combined sewer overflows and sediments.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller wants the federal government to offer grants to address streams like the Wabash River that Asian carp have already invaded.

That's a reasonable idea, too.

There are other means to kill specific species or to herd them to areas where commercial fishermen could harvest them in large numbers.

Use these or other means to control these species, but avoid separating the Mississippi and Lake Michigan.

Don't kill commerce in the name of killing the invasion of the Great Lakes.

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