|Asian Carp are now just a few miles from Lake Michigan. The State of Michigan is trying to get the State of Illinois to hard
close the locks to prevent the Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes and potentially destroying a $7 Billion fishing industry.
The threat is a real one.
Aside from completing, and then checking the Great Loop off your "Bucket List" before you in fact kick that bucket.
This is just one more reason to cruise the Great Loop now.
|What are Asian carp?
The term "Asian carp" refers to four different species of fish: The bighead and silver carp are biggest threat to the lakes,
growing to over 60 pounds and greater than 3 feet in length. They feed on zooplankton and algae and can eat tremendous
amounts every day. The carp consume primarily mollusks, and threaten native mussel and sturgeon populations. They grow to
seven feet in length and 150 pounds.
What sort of threat does this fish pose?
These fish are voracious feeders that quickly dominate a water body. The carp consume 40 per cent of its body weight
each day, while jumping several feet out of the water when startled which makes them a real hazard to boaters. They would
cause irreversible harm to the Great Lakes by consuming large quantities of algae and zooplankton, muscling out native fish
populations. The estimated impact to the recreational and commercial Great Lakes fisheries would reach to over $5 billion.
While the canal was reopened, my concern hasn't gone away. Subsequently, the canal was poisoned, hoping to further
stop the looming spread of the pesky fish, and now we know the situation continues to get more & more serious.
For those of you that have not heard of Asian Carp, they are an invasive species that entered the Mississippi River
system in the late 60s, and have been traveling farther and farther north ever since. The fish is now in the Chicago Sanitary and
Shipping Canal, just a few miles from Lake Michigan. The problem with them is that they consume huge amounts of plankton and
many weigh over 100 pounds. The fear is, if Asian carp enter the Great Lakes ecosystem, they will destroy the multi-billion dollar
fishing industry by overwhelming the food chain.
Now of course, "politics" has taken over.
Currently, Michigan State Attorney Mike Cox has filed suit with the U.S. Supreme Court requesting the complete closure of
the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in an effort to keep the species from entering Lake Michigan. The Illinois State Attorney
General filed a counter suit with the Supreme Court, urging that the request for the closure of the locks be rejected. And now,
the Supreme Court has issued a temporary rejection of Michigan's request to permanently close the locks. However, Illinois
Gov. Pat Quinn has is now willing to place a hard barriers in Chicago area waterways to keep Asian carp from reaching the
Great Lakes - and therefore preventing boats from entering the Illinois and Mississippi river.
Now, the Army Corps of Engineers have stated that DNA samples tested positive in two areas beyond the final barriers
(Calumet Harbor and Calumet River) on Lake Michigan. Officials state, however, that the DNA test results are far from conclusive
and do not necessarily mean a large population (or even any) of the Asian Carp are present in the Great Lakes. So, with a an
ongoing series of lock closures, poisonings and DNA findings as well as continued Supreme Court filings the battle has set off a
multi-jurisdictional conflict with little sight of any agreement on the horizon.
Some, such as the USACE and the Fish and Wildlife Service continue to downplay concerns, while other organizations like
the Alliance for the Great Lakes believe an immediate hard closure is required, and they continue in their determination with
more DNA testing searching for proof that the Asian Carp are in fact already in the Lake Michigan.
For now, the locks & passage remain open. Yet we wait with baited breath for one fisherman to catch an Asian Carp in
Lake Michigan, or one over zealous environmentalist (environmental terrorist) to transport a pair of Asian carp across the barrier
and release it.
On "our" side are the commercial shippers that earn $2 billion a year transporting freight, as well as the thousands of
recreational boaters, and hundreds of Great Loopers who utilize the canal to gain access to the Mississippi River. It's a situation
we have been paying very close attention to, as it presents a real live threat to closing off the only link to the Mississippi River
from the Great Lakes. Thereby turning America's Great Loop into America's Great U-turn.
In September 2009, my Great Loop Cruise was interrupted. Actually, it
was stopped. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, I found myself (as did
other Great Loopers) stranded on the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping
Canal (southwest of Chicago, just below that 19' 1" bridge and just above
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Asian Carp Barrier.
My heart beating franticly and my emotions running wild as a Coast
Guard vessel approached and said, "the Great Loop was closed".
For a moment, I was crushed, my knees felt weak, and as I took a seat in
the cockpit, the Coast Guard agent continued with "they are increasing
the voltage across the fish barrier to keep Asian carp out. I would have to
wait until they were all finished.
What is the Chicago Sanitary and Ship
The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal is
waterway connection between the Great Lakes
and Illinois and Mississippi river. During the late
1800s Chicago suffered severe water quality
problems. To overcome the problems, the flow
of the Chicago river was redirected, and the
canal was built to connect the river to the
Can the connection be closed?
It certainly can, and most likely will. Gov. Pat
Quinn is now willing to place "hard" barriers in
Chicago waterways to keep Asian carp from
reaching the Great Lakes.
The Alliance for the Great Lakes, calls for a
complete 'hard' separation of the basins. This
would halt the transfer not only of Asian carp
but all boats and barges as well.
At www.captainjohn.org all of us are fighting
to make sure a viable alternative method (lift
lock or rail cross used in Canada) remain a part
of any final solution.
|Are you dreaming or planning on cruising the Loop?
Capt John in attendance at the first Council
of Governors meeting on Mackinac Island to
plead his case for making sure a safe
alternative passage remains part of the
solution in closing the link between the Great
Lakes and the Mississippi waterway.
|If so, we invite you to join us in our efforts to "Keep the Dream Alive".
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|America's Great Loop may be in danger of closing!
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