Canal must close to stop Asian carp
Written by Detroit Free Press   
Thursday, 11 February 2010 21:10
Unless Congress or federal agencies decide to permanently wall off the infamous Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal from the Great Lakes, it will continue to be a superhighway for invasive species, a scientist warned at a Congressional hearing Tuesday.

The canal already has helped to spread invasive species such as Asian carp between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, and there are other species waiting to invade in both directions, said David Lodge, director of the Center for Aquatic Conservation at the University of Notre Dame. Lodge is among the scientists conducting DNA testing for Asian carp in the canal.

"This is not just about Asian carp," he told members of a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee in Washington, D.C.

Zebra and quagga mussels already have escaped the Great Lakes to other parts of the country through the canal, he said. Round gobies, an invasive bottom-dwelling fish, also have migrated from the Great Lakes through the canal.

The spiny water flea, New Zealand mud snail and bloody red shrimp all could spread from the Midwest further south in the canal, harming native fish, he said.

The northern snakehead, a fish that can breathe air and survive for a short time on land, is in the Mississippi River basin now and could swim into the Great Lakes, as could the Brazilian waterweed, a dense invasive plant, Lodge said.

Walling off the canal for good also would help prevent these other invasive species from spreading, he said. "While we talk, these fish are swimming."

Michigan and several other states say Chicago-area locks must be closed now and the canal needs to be separated from the Great Lakes in the near future to prevent the spread of Asian carp, fish that have no predators and can eat nearly half their weight in plankton. Barge operators say lock closures would cost jobs.
 
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