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May 24, 2004

Great Lakes Governors and Ministers urged to share cost of
electric fish barrier

In a letter to Governor Bob Taft, chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, the International Joint Commission (IJC) urged the governors and ministers of the Great Lakes states and provinces to meet an urgent U.S. $1.8 million funding shortfall to complete the construction of a permanent electric barrier in the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal. The barrier is needed to prevent the imminent introduction of Asian carp to the Great Lakes and the potential destruction of the estimated $4.5 billion annual sport and commercial fishery.

"Failure to prevent the introduction of this invader may result in severe economic and ecological damage to the Great Lakes ecosystem, perhaps even exceeding the damage caused by previous introductions of the sea lamprey and zebra mussel," state IJC Canadian and U.S. co-chairs Herb Gray and Dennis Schornack, in the May 21, 2004 letter which can be found at Recent Press Releases at www.ijc.org.

Using a federal/nonfederal cost-share process, the U.S. Government has already contributed $5 million toward the project, and the State of Illinois has contributed $1.7 million as the local cost-share partner. Due to changes to improve the barrier design and unanticipated costs, an additional $1.8 million is needed to complete construction of the permanent electric barrier by a September 30, 2004 deadline.

"Specifically, we urge all the governors and the provincial ministers to join their colleague in Illinois and the federal government in fully funding the construction of a permanent barrier. ... Illinois cannot serve as the single rubber stopper at the bottom of the Great Lakes basin," the letter states.

Two species of Asian carp that are within 50 miles of Lake Michigan could soon gain access to the Great Lakes through the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal. A temporary, experimental electric barrier built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has served as the last line of defense in preventing the movement of Asian carp into the Great Lakes; however, the temporary barrier is near the end of its expected lifespan and some of its components are failing.

The International Joint Commission was established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the United States and Canada prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the waters they share. Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the IJC also advises the governments of the two countries on measures needed to restore and maintain the integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem.

For more information, contact:

John Nevin Washington (202) 256-1368
Fabien Lengellé Ottawa (613) 995-0088

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