The Coast Guard reopened the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to recreational boating traffic last Saturday after a four-week closure. In addition, new procedures for recreational vessels transiting the canal have been put in place, including a daily 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. travel window, and a requirement that boaters receive authorization from the Coast Guard prior to transiting.
The closure was made after the canal's operator, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), doubled the voltage of the Electric Fish Dispersal Barrier from one volt/inch to two volts/inch. America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association and Dozier's Waterway Guide worked with the Boat Owners Association of The United States to get the canal reopened to recreational boating traffic.
Located between canal mile markers 296.0 to 296.7, the barrier is designed to prevent the spread of Asian carp, an aquatic nuisance species that has the potential to decimate the Great Lakes' $4.5 billon fishery. After a carp was found south of the barrier in an area of "extreme risk," the barrier's voltage went up and a temporary closure was enacted as safety tests were conducted for recreational boats with fiberglass hulls. Until Saturday's opening, the only way for boats to transit the barrier was to pay $600 to be towed through. Most commercial traffic, which is largely comprised of steel-hulled vessels, was not halted.
The waterway is a crucial link for recreational boats navigating "The Great Loop," a popular long distance cruise that includes the Great Lakes, Mississippi River, Gulf of Mexico and Eastern Seaboard.