Friday, July 1, 2011

Scientists Address Great Lakes & Mississippi River Basins Separation

Jul 1: A group of Great Lakes and Mississippi River scientists have published a technical paper in the Journal of Great Lakes Research entitled, Dividing the waters: The case for hydrologic separation of the North American Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins. According to an abstract, legislation has been introduced this year in the U.S. Congress, but not yet enacted, that would direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete a study of the options that would prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins.
    The abstract indicates that, "Hydrologic separation is the only option which closes the aquatic connection between the two basins and does not require continuous operation and maintenance of various technologies that have some risk of failure. The one-time, capital cost to separate the two basins is widely acknowledged to be high, and the outstanding question is whether the costs are justified given the significant risk of future ecological damages and long-term economic losses. Interests opposing separation have mounted a public campaign that the news media have picked up to deny that hydrologic separation should be considered or that a problem even exists."
    The abstract continues, "The campaign rests on four assertions: (1) existing electric barriers in the Chicago canals are effective; (2) it is too late -- the carps are already in the Great Lakes or soon will be; (3) Asian carps will not thrive in the Great Lakes due to inadequate food and spawning habitat; and (4) Asian carps are unlikely to cause serious harm. Our review of these assertions and the ecological and socio-economic threats to both basins supports our recommendation that the pending legislation be passed and that it include analysis of hydrologic separation of the two basins." The scientists indicate in the paper that the potential victims of the current campaign to discredit proposals to separate the basins are the 40 million in the region who look to the Great Lakes for everything from drinking water to recreation to economic stability, as well as those living throughout the Mississippi River Basin already damaged by the zebra mussel and other southbound invaders from the Great Lakes.
    A number of environmental organizations issued a release on the paper indicating that the "researchers affirm what the environmental community has been urging even before the first November 2009 Asian carp DNA find inside an electric barrier that serves as the last line of defense between the Great Lakes and carp-riddled Mississippi River Basin." They said, "As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stalls on congressionally ordered studies to find a permanent solution -- resorting to fish kills and other short-term tactics to stop the carp's lakeward migration -- environmentalists and a growing chorus of lawmakers continue to push for physically separating the two basins."

    Joel Brammeier, President and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes said, "Extraordinary evidence demands extraordinary solutions, and the evidence is piling up in favor of separation. Declaring independence between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River is the only option."
Robert Hirschfeld of Prairie Rivers Network said, "The artificial connection between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River is a revolving door for wave after wave of invasive species to infest the 30 states of the Mississippi River Basin and do untold ecological and economic damage."
    The groups issuing the joint release on the scientific paper included: Alliance for the Great Lakes; Freshwater Future; Great Lakes United; Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Defense Council; Prairie Rivers Network; and Sierra Club.
    Access a release from the groups (click here). Access the Journal of Great Lakes Research with abstract and information on obtaining the paper (click here). Access an online posting of paper from Michigan State University (click here). Access a fact sheet on the scientists' paper from the organizations (click here).
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1 comment:

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