On Monday, the Army Corps of Engineers released an outline of options to prevent Asian carp and other invasive fish from entering the Great Lakes, one of which calls for permanently separating the Chicago River from Lake Michigan.
The Chicago Tribune reported that the massive engineering feat would cost $18 billion and take up to 25 years to complete.
The Chicago River and its waterways are filled with Asian carp, a ravenous invasive fish species that cause significant damage to the ecosystems they live in. If they migrate into the Great Lakes, they could end up devastating the region’s $7 billion sport fishing industry.
The Army Corps of Engineers spent two years researching plans to block the fish from the Great Lakes after scientists discovered DNA samples of Asian carp in Lake Michigan.
There’s no guarantee that cutting the Chicago River off from Lake Michigan will prevent invasive species from spreading into the Great Lakes.
“If there were a series of storms that totally swamp the system, you could still get transfer of species, even with a physical barrier,” said Dave Wethington, the study’s chief author.
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Some legislators are saying the option costs too much and would take too much time to complete.
“I’ve seen too many of these long-term Corps projects languish for years and fall victim to congressional inaction,” said the U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat and assistant Senate majority leader, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Another option proposed in the outline is a $68 million long-term plan to net and poison Asian Carps, and maintain electronic barriers along the Chicago River’s waterways.