Great Lakes & Mississippi River Basin Separation Study
After 100 years of successful operation, a new challenge is facing the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) and the Great Lakes—the movement of invasive species between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes Basins.
More than 180 non-native aquatic species have become established in the Great Lakes,causing economic losses estimated at $5.7 billion annually. Asian carp are the latest— and potentially the most damaging—aquatic invasive species (AIS) poised to enter the Great Lakes via the Illinois River. The carp are a hearty species that reproduce quickly and consume large quantities of food. Their presence threatens the region's sport fishing industry valued at $7 billion annually. Similarly, AIS from the Great Lakes, such as the zebra mussels and round gobies, have damaged the Mississippi River ecosystem.
The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (Cities Initiative) selected HDR to conduct a 12-month study to develop and evaluate scenarios to separate the Mississippi River and Great Lakes watersheds and prevent the transfer of AIS, with a primary focus on the CAWS. Under HDR's leadership, this $1.2 million study will advance two strategic objectives:
- Evaluate the economic, technical, and ecological feasibility of separation by illustrating probable scenarios and associated costs, impacts and potential benefits of a re-engineered hydrologic system for greater Chicago.
- Support and complement the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mandated work to evaluate all aquatic connections to the Great Lakes by defining, assessing, and vetting scenarios for separation.
Fully characterizing the potential benefits and impacts of separation will require extensive communication with stakeholders. The project will engage a broad stakeholder group, particularly those who depend on current uses of the CAWS for commercial and recreational transportation, stormwater and wastewater management.
Once completed, successful ecoseparation would be achieved in a manner that improves commercial transportation and water quality, and ensures that flood control, tourism, and recreational benefits currently provided by the CAWS are enhanced.