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Great Lakes group says invasive-species report falls short

The Great Lakes Boating Federation says an Army Corps of Engineers study about the spread of aquatic nuisance species into Lake Michigan is thorough, but does not adequately address the interests of Great Lakes and Mississippi River anglers and boaters.

The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study acknowledges that recreational and commercial navigation are significant users of the Chicago-area waterway system and that steps will need to be taken to mitigate the negative effects the eight proposals outlined in the study will have on users.

However, the federation says the report does not specify what actions would be taken to offset those effects and fails to recognize the economic impact that recreational boating and fishing has on the areas in question.

In Chicago alone, there are nearly 6,000 slips in the city harbors on Lake Michigan and it is estimated that these boaters have an economic impact of $70 million to $90 million a year on the city’s economy.

Because of their significant economic impact on the waterways in question, recreational boaters and sportfishermen want to have their concerns addressed in greater detail, the federation said in a statement.

“Although the nearly 25,000 boaters who boat and fish on the waterways in question can certainly understand the need to prevent the spread of the 13 aquatic nuisance species into the Great Lakes, they also need to know how these plans would impact recreational boating and what specific efforts would be undertaken to mitigate these effects,” the statement read.

The group wants to know whether boaters would be able to freely navigate waterways in question and seeks an explanation of how electric barrier systems are performing to keep invasive species out of the region and what will be expected of boaters to prevent such species from being transferred among waterways.