Leaders discussed potential solutions to stop the spread of invasive species in the Great Lakes & Mississippi River
At a press event organized by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Great Lakes region business leaders continued to voice their thoughts on the comprehensive assessment of potential control measures for invasive species in the Great Lakes as presented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in its Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) released earlier this week.
While commending the Corps for its work to identify eight control options and provide opportunities for dialogue to address the spread of invasive species, Benjamin Brockschmidt, executive director of the Infrastructure Council of the Illinois Chamber, cautioned about the need to weigh all options carefully, stating that “the wrong decision will negatively impact the flow of waterborne commerce as well as water quality and flood mitigation resulting in irreparable economic damage to private sector interests while introducing billions of dollars in taxpayer obligations. We need to continue to work collaboratively to find the right decision that will prevent the spread of invasive species, improve water quality and promote economic growth."
Addressing the attention that has been given to physical separation of Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River, Mark Biel, chairman of UnLock Our Jobs and executive director for the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois, said that “we are not persuaded by this report that separation is the solution to address invasive species. The report has shown that separation is not economical, that it takes too long, and that it will not solve the issue. Separation is not the answer."
Representing the American Waterways Operators, John Kindra, president of Kindra Lake Towing, LP, said that "trends indicate the amount of freight moving in Illinois will dramatically increase. Separating the water basins would remove the most environmental and economically viable route for delivering bulk goods, as one dry cargo barge moves the equivalent of 16 rail cars and 70 trucks."
Brockschmidt also reiterated that the Corps report does not offer an option that will definitively stop the spread of invasive species, as the greatest risk for the movement of invasive species remains humans who physically transfer them from one point to another. He acknowledged that additional action is needed to prevent the spread of invasive species, and that collaborative solutions must be implemented sooner rather than later.
"Preventing the spread of invasive species has been and remains a top priority for UnLock Our Jobs and the Illinois Chamber. The Corps has put together a very good report and we look forward to continued work with them and other stakeholders toward an economical, science-based, comprehensive solution that balances the region’s economic and environmental concerns," Brockschmidt said.