More hope in stopping Asian carp

After months of unremitting bad news, for the second week in a row we saw signs of progress in addressing the Asian carp disaster. This week is marked by a return to rational discussion of Asian carp problems and solutions. Three developments offer hope that the White House carp summit next week may produce real results:

  1. The federal and state agencies now known as the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (they used to be the Rapid Response Team) this week came out with a seven-page document providing a conceptual outline of possible integrated emergency response measures to stop further movement of the carp. What’s significant is that this document is both comprehensive  (it includes multiple actions, including temporary lock closures) and integrated (it describes how multiple measures can be deployed together and in sequence to stop further movement of the invasive carp). This is not a final plan, but it’s a huge step in the right direction. Of course, we still have to see which of the scenarios they actually choose…
  2. The agencies will release a more detailed plan of action this Monday, February 8, just in advance of the Asian carp White House summit. We have hopes that the plan will follow and expand on the conceptual plan published this week by the agencies.
  3. Some real economists have finally weighed in on the actual costs of closing the Chicago navigational locks. As part Michigan’s supplemental filing with the U.S. Supreme Court this week (yes, Michigan has filed a supplemental motion re-petitioning for emergency lock closure as a result of the eDNA evidence of Asian carp in Calumet Harbor),  it submitted a study by Dr. John Roach and James Taylor on the costs of shutting the O’Brien and Chicago locks to barge traffic. You might recall that the Corps and the shipping industry claimed that the economies of Chicago and the region would be devastated even by a short term closure, that Chicago could not handle the additional truck and rail traffic that would result, that jobs would be lost, and that it would cost the region over $190 million annually. The Roach and Taylor study demolishes the Corps’ claims with real economic analysis. Their conclusions include:

“a. Only approximately seven million tons of cargo per year would be affected and some of this would incur relatively minor inconvenience .

b. That affected volume represents less than one percent of all the freight traffic in the Chicago Region and only thirty percent of the total Port of Chicago traffic.

c. The affected barge traffic is the equivalent of two daily loaded rail unit trains in a region that has approximately 500 daily freight trains.

d.Truck traffic in Chicago would increase less than 1/10 of one percent.

e. Most of the affected cargo would continue to move on the inland waterway system, through the Lockport Locks, but would have to stop a few miles short of its former destination.

i. Transportation and handling costs would increase by less than $70 million annually in a Chicago metropolitan area economy of $521 billion.

j. There would be more cargo-related jobs, not less, associated with closures at the O’Brien and Chicago Locks. There likely would be some loss of barge jobs, but these would be more than replaced by truck, rail, and pipeline jobs needed for transload and transfer movements of the affected cargo. That is why there would be additional transportation costs.

o. In sum, waterway closure at the Chicago and O’Brien Locks would have a localized impact on already declining commercial cargo traffic that comprises only a tiny fraction of economic activity in the metropolitan Chicago area. The conservatively estimated additional transportation and logistical costs of shifting a portion of the existing barge traffic to other modes of transportation along a small portion of its route is far less than that suggested by the Corps and Illinois, and is orders of magnitude less than the estimated economic impact of sport and commercial fishing in the Great Lakes.

p. The claim that “even a temporary closure of the locks will devastate the local economy and Illinois’ role in the regional,national and global economy…” (Ill. Opposition p. 10 and Ill. App.50a) cannot reasonably be supported.”

Understanding the real costs of each of the options, including temporary lock closures, means there can be less posturing and more problem-solving at the summit. That’s essential for the health of the Great Lakes.

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2 Responses to “More hope in stopping Asian carp”

  1. Car Transportation Says:

    Asian carp are a menace!

  2. shipping car Says:

    There likely would be some loss of barge jobs, but these would be more than replaced by truck, rail, and pipeline jobs needed for transload and transfer movements of the affected cargo.

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