Plan to separate the Great Lakes

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An extreme plan to separate the Great Lakes in North America to protect them from invasive species was proposed last week.

The proposal was made at a meeting for states and cities surrounding the Great Lakes and would cost $9.5 billion and involve a massive engineering project.  Scientists confirmed that the artificial link between the lakes, which was built over 110 years ago, had already acted as a pathway for exotic species and was the likeliest route through which the Asiatic carp could reach the lakes.

If the Asiatic carp were to reach the Lakes, they could destabilise food webs and threaten a valuable fishing industry.

"We simply can’t afford to risk that," said Tim Eder, executive director of the Great Lakes Commission, which sponsored the study with the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. "The Great Lakes have suffered immensely because of invasive species. We have to put a stop to this."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers currently oversees shipping locks and other navigation infrastructure in the Chicago waterway system and is conducting its own study of how to close off 18 potential pathways which will be released in 2015. However, there is a pending federal lawsuit by five states which demands quicker action - aiming for mid-2013.

The Obama administration has already spent over $100 million in efforts to stop the advance of the carp including monitoring technologies and an electric barrier near Chicago.

Amongst the suggested methods of separating the lakes include a number of additional barriers to be placed at different routes. The groups involved hope that the final measure will be one which causes minimal disruption and comes closest to restoring the natural divide between the watersheds.

The different methods would mean a cost of $1 a month for the next 45 years for the average household in the area up to a massive total of $9.5 billion.

Despite the high cost, the report’s sponsors said the project would save money in the long run by shielding both systems from species invasions. Zebra and quagga mussels and sea lamprey already have exacted a heavy toll on the Great Lakes economy, and the region’s leaders fear the Asian carp could make things much worse.

However other campaigners say that the solution is ludicrous.

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