Envisioning Chicago’s Waterway System for the 21st Century

Published on July 29th, 2010 | by

There is finally a concerted effort in the Great Lakes region to deal with the problem of Asian carp and other invasive threats to the ecosystem. After a series of unsuccessful lawsuits by Michigan and others to get the state of Illinois to close the Chicago River lock system and the subsequent confirmation of large Asian carp on the Great Lakes side of an underwater electronic barrier, state and city governments are joining to start an initiative to update the Chicago waterway system and protect the Great Lakes. All I can say is, it’s about time.

Image Credit: Bernt Rostad Great Lakes area governments are launching an initiative to bring the Chicago Waterway System into the 21st Century.
Great Lakes area governments are launching an initiative to bring the Chicago Waterway System into the 21st Century.

“This study is a critical step in finding the best solution to the problem of invasive species moving through the Chicago Area Waterway System between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds. At the same time, it can help identify ways to improve transportation, water quality, and water management for the residents of the City of Chicago and the entire region.” — Richard M. Daley, Mayor of Chicago and founding U.S. Chairman of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

Led by the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, state and local governments and organizations will spend 18 months analyzing the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) with an overarching mission to deal with the threat of Asian carp, protect both basins, and address everything from water quality and flood control to transportation and the Chicago-area economy. The $2 million project, called Envisioning a Chicago Area Waterway System for the 21st Century, is funded by the Joyce Foundation, the Great Lakes Protection Fund, and other regional funders.

They will be talking to shippers, water managers, government agencies, citizen groups, recreational and commercial boaters, tribes, and others to look into all possibilities. Whatever the result, I hope, as does Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow, that protecting the Great Lakes from the invasive and destructive Asian carp takes priority over economic concerns.

“The best permanent solution to protecting the Great Lakes from damaging aquatic invasive species is to separate the two watersheds by closing the artificial connection in the Chicago area.” — Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)


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