Experts consider closing river to block Asian carp

A bighead carp, a species of the Asian carp, swims in a new exhibit that highlights plants and animals that eat or compete with Great Lakes native species Thursday, Jan. 5, 2006, at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

March 2, 2010 3:33:46 PM PST
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking at the possibility of closing the navigational locks and maybe shutting down the Chicago River to boat traffic four days a week in order to stop the invasion of the elusive Asian carp.

Commander Vincent Quarles, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says,"This issue is still in the study phase. No recommendation has yet been made. All options are still on the table. No timeline has been set for implementing anything."

Wendella Boats is celebrating its 75th anniversary season and is scheduled to open on Friday, March 12. They say closing the locks and the river to traffic will seriously affect business and tourism.

"It will be devastating. Basically, like any business, if we are told you are closed four days, what do we do? Seventy percent of the income comes through tours that go through the lock," said Craig Wenokur, Wendella Boats.

Wendella was the first commercial vessel to go through the Chicago River locks in 1938. Wenokur believes there are other measures that can be taken to stop Asian carp.

"They have 26 different action items and closing the Chicago lock is only one of them," said Wenokur.

"In the case of industrial use with the barges, it will have a dramatic impact because customers depend on timely deliveries. What you've got is Navy Pier losing one of the main attractions which is the tour boat industry," said Jim Farrell, Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

Farrell says there are no Asian carp above the fish barrier in Romeoville. The chamber is suggesting other options to deal with this problem 20 miles away.

Chip Callopy is president of Shoreline Sightseeing Tours, a family run business has 21 boats and over 300 employees. The company has navigated Chicago' rivers since 1939.

"We're talking about closing the locks and they're also talking about closing the river to navigation. So that would completely shut us down," said Callopy.