Seize the opportunity: Separate the basins
With an engineering background, I can well understand the axiom
that goes “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
After all, the construction of the 363-mile-long Erie Canal was a
marvel of 19th Century ingenuity. As was the building of the
massive dam works along both the Columbia and Colorado rivers
during the 20th Century.
And the dams built across the turbulent streams of the Northeast
helped ignite the nation’s Industrial Revolution, setting the stage
for the manufacture of affordable footwear and clothing.
Then too the Chicago Area Waterway System of canals and links made
perfect economic sense when it was built in 1900.
After all, the distance between the two points of the Great Lakes
drainage and the Mississippi drainage was small; a simple earthen
choke point in and around the growing metropolis that became
Goods could quickly move from one basin to the other with a minimal
of economic and transportation fuss. It all made sense to a country
that was rapidly expanding as a dominant world powerhouse.
We know better today.
Not even considered with a whisper were the environmental costs of
any of these projects. They all mightily contributed to declines in
the runs of American shad, Atlantic salmon, Pacific salmon and in
the case of the Erie Canal: the portal for various invasive species
that have now become an unfortunate fixture in the Great
Of course, knocking on the door now is the threat of Asian carp:
bigheads and silvers which environmentalists call “the poster fish
for ecological and economic havoc.”
And the doorway is that very same Chicago area man-made
Once open, Pandora’s box will add to the further decline of the
Great Lakes, which already is steep. The annual cost to the Great
Lakes region from the current squadron of invasive species is
“upwards of $200 million” annually, environmental watchdogs
For the rest of this story, see the Feb. 17 issue of Ohio Outdoor