Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Healthy Water Solutions Coalition Formed To Stop Asian Carp

Oct 24: More than a dozen Illinois organizations announced the formation of a new coalition committed to stopping the two-way transfer of invasive species -- including Asian carp -- between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin. Robert Hirschfeld of Prairie Rivers Network, a founding member of the new Healthy Water Solutions (HWS) coalition said, "Stopping Asian carp and other invasive species is an economic and ecological imperative. But it is also just one piece of a greater plan for improved water quality, flood control, recreation and transportation in Illinois."
   HWS was formed in response to the need for Illinois residents and organizations to promote locally focused solutions, rather than wait for Federal agencies and regionally contentious lawsuits. Jared Teutsch of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, also a HWS coalition member said, "HWS exists to complement the work of federal and state agencies, while recognizing the importance of local action to help move issues like invasive species forward when they are stalled by outside forces. We encourage the state of Illinois, the city of Chicago and other governmental groups to work with the rest of the region to fashion a modern solution to the growing problems of invasive species and decaying water infrastructure."

    According to a release, the new coalition will advocate for reinvestment in the Chicago River system, a critical piece of infrastructure that affects the waters of the entire state. Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club's Illinois Chapter said, "The Chicago River system can be so much more than a conduit for our wastewater. The threat posed by the Asian carp and other aquatic invaders is also an opportunity to restore the Chicago River and make it a clean, healthy resource that attracts wildlife, people and economic development."

    Invasive species protection promises to provide benefits to Chicago and Lake Michigan, as well as businesses and communities around the state. Invasive species cost the economy hundreds of millions annually. The spread of Asian carp threatens the Great Lakes fishery -- calculated at $7 billion annually, with billions more generated through tourism and recreation. The groups said that while Asian carp are the public face of invasive species, they are among 39 species labeled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as "high-risk" to transfer between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins and inflict significant damage to new habitat.
    HWS re-envisions the Chicago River as a system that not only prevents the transfer of all aquatic invaders, including Asian carp, but better serves its functions of moving people and goods and managing stormwater -- all while improving water quality. Henry Henderson, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Midwest Program and a former commissioner of the environment for the city of Chicago said, "Chicago and the rest of the region will not thrive until we address its failing water infrastructure. Re-imagining Chicago's waterways is at the core of the vision that the HWS coalition will bring to help move us all toward a modern system that enhances our environment, economy and quality of life."
   Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River said, "The Chicago River is the lifeblood of the city. And it flows through so many urban and suburban communities playing the role of natural and recreational resource and catalyst for community revitalization. Through HWS we are committed to improving and protecting the Chicago River at the same time we solve the aquatic invasive species problems we face." HWS will work with the region's leaders on a plan for separation that satisfies public needs without severing Chicago's vital connection to the lake.

    Access a posted release from HWS including a listing of initial members (click here). Access the HWS website for more information (click here). [#GLakes]
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