U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) says he is against physically separating Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River in an effort to block Asian carp and other invasive species from spreading to the Great Lakes.
The U.S. Senator hosted a meeting Sunday near the Chicago River about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' report submitted to Congress last week that lists eight different strategies to help prevent the movement of the invasive species.
The proposal to put in place physical barriers to achieve full separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins, a process called as "hydrologic separation," is estimated to cost up to $18 billion and it could take 25 years to complete.
Kirk said he does not back such an effort because it would be too costly. Instead, he said he supports boosting the voltage at the current electric barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal meant to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan. The Corps reported last month, however, that fish can actually breach the electric barrier in certain circumstances.
“I would hypercharge the electric barrier to make sure that it is 100 percent effective,” Kirk said. He added that the voltage is currently not as high as it could be because the wall by the barrier can shock people on boats if they touch it while passing by. Putting up new signs with the warning could be a solution to that concern, the senator said.
“No need to keep the voltage low because some bureaucrat in Washington wants to keep it low,” Kirk said. “We should keep it high to make sure it’s very effective.”
Sam Pulia, Westchester's village president, also expressed concerns about the possibility of increased flooding that could happen as a result of separating the two basins.
Read Progress Illinois' full report about the Corps' new study here.