Army Corps releases GLMRIS report

The Army Corps of Engineers released its Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study Jan. 6, a week earlier than projected. As part of Marquette's O'Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism working alongside Journal Sentinel reporter Dan Egan, for a second semester, this newly generated study has be the subject of discussion on the investigation of invasive species in the Great Lakes.

Previous studies concerting invasive species have concentrated on the discovery of carp DNA, and previous solutions included Chicago's electric dispersal barrier, activated in 2002. The new $25 million GLMRIS study proposes eight alternatives, only two of which seem to follow the request of physically separating the barriers, and thereby the flow of invasive species between the two. 

The study, which was initiated by the Army Corps in 2007 and is more than 10,000 pages, suggests a span of 25 years and nearly $18 billion to complete some of these options. The first three alternative options offer little to no changes in current operations with only the third offering a couple structural improvements adding lock systems and new electric barriers. As of December 2013 the electric barrier system was still viewed as insufficient with new video evidence of its failure stopping entire schools of fish, according to Egan's Journal Sentinel report

In an article passed on from an O'Brien peer, Ti-Patrice Lavers, reported by Michael Hawthorne of The Chicago Tribune, there seems to be strong advocation against pursuing the study's alternatives. The article quotes U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin doubting the success of the project saying, "I've seen too many of these long-term Corps projects languish for years and fall victim to congressional inaction."

What I find most interesting is the impact some alternatives have on commercial navigation. Alternative five, which allows hydrologic separation of the basins at four locations along the lakefront, and alternative six, which allows hydrologic separation at two locations mid-system, would each cost over $200 million loss in potential commercial cost savings. This compares to the alternatives seven and eight which would cost roughly $7 million to $9 million, but would continue to leave either the Calumet-Saganashkee Channel or Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal open. These two waterways, in recent years, are reported sites of positive carp eDNA results.