Asian carp fight may hurt Chicago economy

December 8, 2009 4:42:01 PM PST
The fight to protect the Great Lakes from an Asian carp invasion may move into a court room.It could also force some Chicago area companies to shut down and mean higher prices for consumers.

The red and white striped trucks are a familiar site all over the Chicago area- Ozinga has provided concrete for everything from Soldier Field to backyard patios. The 81-year-old company relies on Chicago area rivers to transport the materials to make concrete.

"For this particular location and a number of others it's absolutely critical," said Marty Ozinga IV, Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete, Inc.

The Asian carp may stop barge traffic all together if the state of Michigan gets it way. In order to protect a $7 billion fishing industry from the carp, the Michigan Attorney General plans to file a federal lawsuit to force the closure of the Chicago area locks that separate the Great Lakes and Illinois rivers and canals. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce said closing the locks would devastate an already sluggish economy.

"It would have a dramatic impact on jobs cost of goods and ability of employers to survive," said Jim Farrell, Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

Materials for power plants, salt for roads, jet fuel, coal, steel and several more products are transported to Chicago by barge. Cargo on one barge may hold the equivalent of 60 truck loads or 40 rail cars.

The Illinois chamber said that close to a half million more trucks would clog up Chicago area roads if barges could not be used. If Ozinga had to use trucks to transport their materials, Marty Ozinga said the price of concrete would go up dramatically.

"I would say easily 2O-30 percent increase in the price of concrete if the river shut down," said Bill Russell, Illinois Marine Towing.

Ozinga said it would also mean layoffs for his company. The companies that provide the barges and tugboats said they would be out of business if the locks were to close.

"We had a closure because of service to the fish barrier and that closure was only about six days long, from start to finish. We had three of the boats tied up, which resulted in 20 people being sent home," said Russell.

Many said shutting down the water ways could shut down Chicago- a city that was put on the map for being an international port.


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