Motion Monitor feedback on Army Corps

Sept. 15, 2010
The following are in response to last month’s Motion System Design Motion Monitor newsletter, in which we discussed the work of the Army Corps of Engineers to prevent the spread of Asian carp to the Great Lakes.   Lemon out of lemonade Why don't people ...

The following are in response to last month’s Motion System Design Motion Monitor newsletter, in which we discussed the work of the Army Corps of Engineers to prevent the spread of Asian carp to the Great Lakes.

Lemon out of lemonade

Why don't people just start eating the carp? Perhaps it's similar to the view of hardhead catfish on the Gulf coast: Locals will not eat them, but people come down from the north in the winter to catch them. Anyway, my family has eaten the fish for years. They do have small bones, but if you cook them properly, they are very good eating: Put them in a pressure cooker for about four minutes, dip them in buttermilk, corn meal, and fry. Carp are a light flaky fish, not as good as perch, but definitely better than catfish nuggets that people think are so good.

In addition, the fish could be used for animal fodder: People spend thousands of dollars for cat food with fish scraps. Have you ever looked in a can of cat food? It's full of bones — a lot more than carp have.

— Raymond Looper

Responsibility, reactivity, and reality

First of all, the waterways in question are the responsibility of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC), not the US Army Corps of Engineers (COE). The system is complex and consists of the Chicago River (North, Main & South Branches), North Shore Channel, Sanitary and Ship Canal, Cal-Sag Channel, and Little Calumet River. They are all connected by natural and constructed means, with the purpose of reversing their flow away from Lake Michigan to the Illinois River and hence the Mississippi. This reversal took place on January 2, 1900, with Admiral Dewey (of Spanish-American War fame) officiating. There are three controlling locks on Lake Michigan, two manned by the COE with one automated, all controlled by the MWRDGC. All of this was done to prevent polluting water supply taken from the lake. The downstream end terminates at Lockport, Illinois with a Lock, Spillway and Hydro Plant joining the Illinois River along with the Des Plaines River (which originates in Wisconsin). The MRDGC Hydros Plant generated its first electricity back in 1906, the turbines taking advantage of drop in elevation between the Chicago and downstate systems.

The lawsuit and attempt by the five states to have the Asian carp contained is unfounded. Only one fish was found in Lake Calumet (off Lake Michigan) with no proof that it swam upstream through the above system. Another was found in Chicago’s Garfield Park Lagoon (not connected to any waterway). They both could’ve been deposited by fishermen. Also, it’s not known what sex they were. The State of Illinois has entered into an agreement with Europe to export any carp that are caught by electric nets set in the system to trap them. Carp are considered a delicacy over there. As a kid, I used to see huge carp that inhabited the numerous harbors along the Chicago shoreline. Being a second-generation descendent of Eastern European Jews, I remember my mother including carp in the making of gefilte fish.

Supposedly, there are Asian carp found in State of Michigan Rivers that flow into the Great Lakes. How are they being restricted from entering the Great Lakes? What has any governmental agency done in the past to successfully prevent invasive species such as alewives, Gobi or zebra mussels from entering the Lakes? Moreover, with typical human zeal, we often plunge with no forethought into solving one problem while introducing another.

In addition to this spurious lawsuit, there’s also a push for the MWRDGC to chlorinate the effluent discharge from its seven plants into the system AND re-reverse the system back into our water supply, Lake Michigan. Not only would we be back to all the old waterborne diseases, but the millions of dollars of commerce plying the waterways would be stifled. I say: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — leave things the way they are.

I’m an Environmentalist and Mechanical Engineer, retired from 30 years of public service with the City of Chicago and the MWRDGC.

— Fred J. Wittenberg


People are worried about carp and mussels and the oriental beetle, but I remember when honest government workers inspected all cargo. I also remember when we had lots of praying mantises and no bedbug problem, like we do now. The Asian carp will survive regardless of what the Corps of Engineers do, and we will end up eating them. Someone will also soon say that DDT is no longer harmful to birds and it will be available to use on bedbugs.

— Arnold Horowitz


Politicians have their heads in the sand. They need to protect the Great Lakes; the Asian carp invasion is just another disaster waiting to happen. We’d better get used to deep-fried carp, because we can’t count on our government to do the job. They fight back and forth, only thinking of reelection — with no actual concern for the American public.

— Name withheld


On April 25, 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened. Shortly thereafter, sea lampreys hitched a ride on ocean freighters up bound into the lakes. The sea lampreys are predatory parasites and they devastated the Great Lakes fisheries. Prior to the sea lamprey, Canada and the U.S. annually harvested 15 million lb of lake trout alone from Lakes Huron and Superior. By the early 1960s the annual catch dropped to 300,000 lb. Methods were found to control the sea lamprey but by then, the damage had been done. Since then, other foreign species such as the zebra muscle have invaded. If the Asian Carp find their way out of Lake Calumet into Lake Michigan the Great Lake fisheries may never recover.

The threat of the Asian carp has not received the publicity that it so desperately needs. Thank you for being a voice to raise awareness.

— John Swank


Army Corps of Engineers — that’s a real joke. They’re engineers at doing what? They couldn’t keep a fish in a fish bowl.

— Name withheld


We must realize that there is a limit to what mankind can (or should) do. Five states suing the U.S. Corps of Engineers (aka fishing for money) only wastes resources that could be better spent fighting the carp. I seriously doubt the states could run the locks any better. If the fishing industry is indeed $7 billion a year, one option is to close the locks, let the lakes return to their original drainage, and create fish barriers that are more permanent: A fleet of shuttle cargo ships in each lake would off-load their freight to another ship in the next lake via conveyor belts until one reached the ocean-going ships out in the St. Lawrence. A dedicated rail line could also be used to augment the shuttle system. Far-fetched? Perhaps, but considering the costs, perhaps not so crazy as it sounds.

— Tom Wheatley

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