Rep. Biggert talks Asian carp, waterway issues with local businesses

August 11, 2011

The Issue:Asian carp are bottom-feeder fish that pose a threat to the Great Lakes’ multi-billion-dollar fishing industry, according to officials. The State of Illinois has been against closing locks on the canal to prevent the invasive fish from getting to Lake Michigan.. Business owners along the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal, as well as Lemont officials, have said that closing the waterway would negatively affect businesses along the canal, devastating the local economy. Asian carp can grow to 100 pounds and eat 40 percent of their body weight daily.

What’s New
U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-13) hosted a forum Monday to discuss the Asian carp and its effect on local business.

Waterway operators and those who work with river carriers and passenger vessels attended the meeting to discuss the effectiveness and economic impact of current anti-carp measures.

Frederic Drummond, a commander with the Army Corps of Engineers, was introduced as the new commander and expressed his concern on closing the locks in an effort to keep the Asian carp out of Lake Michigan.

“Every time we shut the locks, it causes economic difficulty,” Drummond said. “I want to minimize this.”

Drummond and Biggert said the carp is still about 42 miles away from Lake Michigan and a recent four-day search for Asian carp in Lake Calumet came up empty.

What’s next
When locks need to be closed temporarily to work on barriers or perform other maintenance duties, Drummond said he vows to give businesses that will be impacted at least a 30-day notice to reroute and plan accordingly.

Felicia Kirksey, program manager with Army Corps of Engineers, said the Corps is doing a number of studies on the operation of the barriers and the location of small fish. She said they are also looking for measures that could be taken on the Calumet and the little Calumet rivers to prevent the spread of Asian carp.

A complete study on the spread of Asian carp from the Great Lakes to and from the Mississippi River will be completed in 2015, Kirksey added.

Biggert said she supports looking at how a physical barrier will impact commerce and the ecology.

“I am going to fight and keep the carp out of the lake and fight to keep the waterways open,” Biggert said. “I think science should lead where we go, not the politicians. I think there are a lot more studies to be done.”
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