BoatUS Special Report


Separation Anxiety

By Chris Landers
Published: June/July 2013

Janice Kromer, head of the America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association, says that while closing the waterway would be "catastrophic" for this iconic 6,000-plus-mile cruising route around the eastern half of the U.S., she doesn't think it will happen. "They have to do something about the carp, but it's not in their interest to close the waterway," she says. “And from what I understand, they haven't finalized anything as yet, anyway. It's just a giant study that will go on for years."

Map of the Chicago Area Waterways
Photo: Great Lakes Commission
Map of the Chicago Area Waterways.

Kromer points out that even if the Chicago waterways are closed completely, the carp might have other ways to get through. The Army Corps is studying alternative routes that could transfer the fish to the Great Lakes. In their most recent report, they identify 18 spots where floodwaters could allow the carp access to the lakes. While none are rated a "high risk," several of them get a "medium" rating from the Corps, meaning that a transfer is likely within 50 years. Eagle Marsh, for example, near Fort Wayne, Indiana, sits between the Wabash River, which has Asian carp already, and the Maumee River, which feeds into Lake Erie. A flood could mix the two rivers, and the Maumee would be an attractive breeding ground for carp. For now, a chain link fence in the marsh divides the two rivers.

In Chicago, things aren't that simple.

"People are generally supportive" of the plan to separate the watersheds, according to the Great Lakes Commission's Eder. "There's been some polling asking people whether they think this is important, and the majority of people do think it's important and necessary. There's also a sense among a lot of people, and a lot of lawmakers, that they want to see what the Corps comes up with."

Given the timelines and efforts involved, though, Waterway Guides' Ahart is skeptical. "I honestly don't know what will end up happening," he says. "If you had to put a bet on it, I'd almost bet that the carp will be in there before they have this done.End of story marker

Chris Landers is an associate editor of BoatUS Magazine.

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