U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13th) today joined White House Asian Carp Director John Goss, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other environmental experts for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the completion of a 13-mile barrier along the Des Plaines River to guard against the spread of the invasive Asian carp. The concrete and wire mesh barrier was constructed to prevent the Asian carp from spilling over from the Des Plaines River and the I&M Canal into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal during heavy rains, thus bypassing the electronic barrier system that protects the ecosystem of Lake Michigan from the destructive carp. Biggert, a long-time advocate for preservation of the Great Lakes, helped secure the authority that enabled the Army Corps to construct the barrier, which extends from Romeoville to Willow Springs, IL. At the ceremony, Biggert offered the following remarks:
"Thank you for that kind introduction. It's a pleasure to join you all this morning. As you know, the 13th District has long been the front line in our battle to keep the invasive Asian carp out of our Great Lakes, and I have had the privilege of working with Senator Durbin and Colonel Quarles on this important project since 2002, before installation of the electronic barrier system in Romeoville.
"Today we are marking the completion of the latest in a long series of efforts designed to establish an effective bulwark against the carp threat. Our expert environmental managers at the Army Corps, IDNR, the Forrest Preserve, the EPA and others are all working together in a coordinated campaign to protect our ecosystem. And they will continue to receive our full support in Congress to use every tool in their arsenal -- from fish toxin and electro-fishing to physical barriers like this -- to accomplish their mission.
"In Chicago, our lake is our treasure. And preserving the benefits of all Chicago's waterways requires science, commitment, and cooperation. This barrier is a perfect example of exactly all three. As part of their comprehensive review of the carp threat, the Army Corp identified this 13-mile stretch along the Des Plains River and I&M Canal as a potential route through which the carp could bypass our defenses on the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal in the event of flooding.
"In response, Senator George Voinovich of Ohio (R-OH) and I worked to insert emergency authority into a Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and Water bill that allowed the Corps to flexibly respond to the bypass threat. With funding from the EPA and the cooperation of state officials, the Corps were able to erect portions of this barrier in time to meet the rising flood waters we experienced as early as July of this year. And today, the successful completion of the Des Plaines Bypass Barrier marks a critical step in closing the remaining gaps in our defenses.
"Moving forward, I hope that we can continue in that same sprit as we work to complete our other defenses against the carp without compromising the benefits -- both economic and environmental -- that Chicago's waterways offer to the entire Midwest.
"I am very pleased that the Corps is near completion of barrier IIA, which will provide our waterways with a critical second layer of protection. And I hope that those from neighboring states will take note of this success, and set aside any misguided ideas about legislating or litigating lock closure as a viable alternative to the scientific solutions we are bringing forward. Simply closing down Chicago area waterways -- as some have suggested -- would needlessly destroy jobs, impede commerce, and wreak havoc on flood control mechanisms that protect millions of homes and businesses.
"Instead, I look forward to working with all my colleagues from around the Great Lakes to ensure our Asian Carp Rapid Response Group has the resources and support they need to continue winning this battle and keeping our lakes safe. So with that, let me just thank you all again for making it out here this morning and for caring so much about our environment."