Aquatic invasive species pose a great risk to America’s waterways. Here in Illinois, much recent attention has been focused on the threat that Bighead and Silver carp (introduced from Asia into fish ponds in Arkansas and now spread throughout the Mississippi River basin) will make their way into the Great Lakes. Past invaders, including zebra mussels and the round goby, have entered Illinois waters from the Great Lakes.
Over a hundred years ago, Chicago built a number of canals to reverse the flow of the Chicago River from into Lake Michigan to instead flow south into the Illinois River, the Mississippi River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. The Chicago Area Waterways System (CAWS) connection is a hotspot of concern for aquatic invasive species transfer between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins. Currently, there are 33 species of concern of invading new waters through the CAWS connection. Ten threaten the Great Lakes, including the two well-known species of Asian carp, and 23 are found in the Great Lakes but not yet in the Mississippi River basin.
Illinois Sierra Club volunteers and staff are working with other stakeholders to determine ways to modernize the CAWS in order to—
- Halt the transfer of aquatic invasive species between the CAWS and Lake Michigan
- Improve water quality for human recreation and aquatic life
- Reduce combined sewer overflows into the waterways
- Resolve flooding problems in Chicagoland
- Enhance transportation of goods and people through the Chicago region
Ways to get involved
- Join the Sierra Club in supporting the principles of the Healthy Water Solutions coalition
- Do your part to prevent the transfer of aquatic invasives by—
- Removing plants, animals and mud from boats and all equipment
- Draining water from bait buckets
- Thoroughly drying all items after use in a body of water
For more information
Images from: lakesideviews.blogspot.com