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(Asian) Carpe Diem

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

The Asian carp are all the buzz in Chicago these days.  Everyone, including myself, is paranoid that these massive fish will destroy the ecosystem of Lake Michigan, and possibly even the entire Great Lakes region.  To put things into perspective, the destruction of this ecosystem could destroy our drinking supply and kill the many multi-million dollar industries of the Great Lakes.  These fish are a dreadfully invasive species that eat everything in their sight, from other fish to plants, and are coming into Lake Michigan via the Mississippi River.  As I've discussed before, one potential fix for this problem, which is a big debate during the Illinois Senatorial race, is the re-reversal of the Chicago River, thus cutting off all Great Lake ties with the Mississippi.  Because our waterways (and water in general) are very essential to livability in Chicago, I want to talk about the debate over the Chicago River and the Asian carp.

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Nobody knows exactly what will happen if the Asian carp make the shores of Chicago home.  Most biologists and scholars believe that they will eat essential plants and animals that keep the Lake clean and safe for drinking; therefore, the key question is how to stop this from happening.  U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Dick Durban (D-IL) have teamed up to introduce legislature that would begin a long-term study of the Asian carp problem, conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The Permanent Prevention of Asian Carp Act would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to report their findings to the Senate and the President in 6-month intervals, and completed in 18 months.  Some might believe that 18 months is far too long to wait, they might be right, but time is needed to do our due diligence. Too much less than 18 months might not sufficiently complete the job.

This seems like a great act to me.  One of the things that annoys me the most when it comes to environmental affairs in this country, is that everything has to become a political affair as well.  It is true that the two senators who introduced this bill are democrats, but the full study will be conducted by a [supposedly] neutral entity.  Hopefully the same guys who reversed the River in the first place will figure out whether they now need to re-reverse it.

The two main Illinois senatorial candidates to re-fill Obama's senate seat, Kirk (republican) and Giannoulias (Democrat), continue to debate this subject.  Clearly, both want what's best for Chicago and Illinois, but they have different ideas of how to do so.  Kirk, who claims to be the hero of the environment, especially regarding keeping Lake Michigan clean, believes that re-reversing the River is a cost that Illinois and Chicago cannot bear.  I ask him this: if you're such a supporter of Lake Michigan, will you change your opinion after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers briefs us on their findings in 18 months?

I must admit, at first I agreed with Kirk.  The River has been used as our main sewer since Chicago became a city, and I questioned if it was really worth spending the billions of dollars it will take to reverse the River.  Clearly my opinion might change again after the research conducted by the professionals is finished, but I find myself agreeing with Giannoulias now.  If Chicago can come up with a sewage plan, and if the only clear way to cut off our water-ties with the Mississippi River, and "save" Lake Michigan, is to re-reverse the River, then I believe in the preventative medicine tactic.  Re-Reverse it now before the Lake is destroyed and before it's too late, or even more expensive.  We now have 4 months to figure out whose argument is more persuasive.

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