Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Army Corps Launches Scoping of Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study Amidst Environmental Group Concerns

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' ("Corps") Chicago District has announced that it plans to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) that it is undertaking as directed by Congress in the 2007 Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA)

For GLMRIS, the Corps plans to explore options and technologies to control aquatic nuisance species (ANS) that might be applied, according to the Corps, "to prevent or reduce the risk of ANS transfer between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins through aquatic pathways" (ANS are nonindigenous species that threaten the diversity or abundance of native species or the ecological stability of infested waters, or commercial, agricultural, aquacultural or recreational activities dependent on such waters).

Some environmental groups have expressed concerns that the Corps' use of the phrase "prevent or reduce the risk" of species migration runs contrary to Congressional intent expressed in the 2007 WRDA, which states that the Corps should conduct a study to "prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and other aquatic pathways" (emphasis added).  Groups are worried that inclusion of the phrase "or reduce the risk" indicates that the Corps is allowing leeway to scale back their study from the Congressionally-prescribed prevention endpoint (see this December 10, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, for example).

According to the GLMRIS web site, as part of this effort, the Corps' plans to:
  • Inventory current and forecast future conditions within the study area;
  • Identify aquatic pathways that may exist between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins;
  • Inventory current and future potential aquatic nuisance species;
  • Analyze possible ANS controls to prevent or reduce the risk of ANS transfer, to include hydraulic separation of the basins;
  • Analyze the impacts each ANS control may have on significant natural resources and existing and forecast (sic) uses of the lakes and waterways within the study area; and
  • Recommend a plan to prevent or reduce the risk of ANS transfer between the basins. If necessary, the plan will include mitigation measures for impacted waterway uses and significant natural resources.
As part of the EIS process the Corps held a public scoping meeting on Wednesday, December 15, in Chicago, Illinois.  Although that meeting date has passed, public comments will continue to be accepted through March 31, 2011.  Using input obtained during an initial scoping period, the Corps says that it "will refine the scope of GLMRIS to focus on significant issues, as well as eliminate issues that are not significant from further detailed study." Interested parties can refer to here on the GLMRIS project website to submit comments.

The Corps plans to host additional public meetings in different cities. Information regarding these meetings will be posted in the Federal Register and at

Questions regarding this matter may be directed to the GLMRIS Project Manager, Dave Wethington, by phone at (312) 846-5522 or by email at

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