Invasive Species and the Chicago Area Waterway System

Oct 2020 | Aquatic Invasive Species, Archived Projects, Library, Water Infrastructure

This project has ended. Archived project materials are available below.

Since 2010, the Great Lakes Commission has been leading efforts to prevent Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species (AIS) from entering the Great Lakes basin from the Mississippi River watershed through the critical Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS). The GLC served as convener and member of the CAWS Advisory Committee, a regional stakeholder forum seeking the best short and long-term solutions to the threat of Asian carp and other AIS passing through the CAWS while maintaining current uses of the system. The Advisory Committee consists of representatives from regional public and private stakeholders, representing governmental, commercial, recreational, business, and environment sectors.

From 2014-2016, the CAWS Advisory Committee developed a series of recommendations for President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress on near and long-term actions to prevent AIS from entering the Great Lakes through the CAWS. The GLC also led technical analyses; provided input on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study; and conducted a study of financing options. In 2012, the GLC and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative released a report entitled “Restoring the Natural Divide” that outlines engineering options for separating the CAWS to prevent AIS movement and examines potential improvements to commercial navigation, recreational boating, flood and stormwater management, and water quality.

Further reference: Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee

About Invasive Species and the Chicago Area Waterway System

Evidence suggests that two species of invasive carp — silver and bighead — are poised to invade the Great Lakes basin through the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS). A federally led Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) is managing the implementation of short and long-term actions to combat their spread into the Great Lakes basin. An electric dispersal barrier system is the only structural mechanism currently in place to prevent their migration through the CAWS. Extensive monitoring and fish removal efforts, led by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and its federal partners, are important – and so far – successful strategies to reduce the risk of population spread.

In 2012, the Great Lakes Commission and Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative completed a $2 million investigation that developed options for separating the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River basin in the CAWS as a potential long-term solution to the threat of AIS transfer. It also evaluated the costs, impacts, and improvements needed to maintain or enhance beneficial uses of the waterways. As part of the effort, an Advisory Committee was established to secure engagement from stakeholders and public agencies.

The CAWS Advisory Committee continued to meet to review key technical issues and provide input to federal agencies working on the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) and related efforts. The GLMRIS report presented several structural and non-structural alternatives to prevent the transfer of AIS through the CAWS but did not recommend a preferred solution. Following GLMRIS, the Advisory Committee worked to reach consensus on a set of recommendations, which took the form of three letters, to advance progress on this issue. In particular, the committee is closely tracking a feasibility study on establishing a single point to control one-way, upstream AIS transfer (i.e., Mississippi River basin into the Great Lakes basin) near the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, Illinois.

The CAWS Advisory Committee is the only forum that brings together a diverse spectrum of stakeholders in a structured process to consider and evaluate continued steps toward a feasible plan to protect the Great Lakes from AIS while maintaining the diverse and important functions of the CAWS.

CAWS Aquatic Invasive Species Stakeholder Group Archive

This section contains archived CAWS Aquatic Invasive Species Stakeholder Group meeting information and related materials.

Dec. 14, 2018 webinar on the Army Corps of Engineers Brandon Road Study

Note: The Army Corps of Engineers has extended the review period for the Brandon Road Integrated Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement to February 22, 2019. The report is posted to the project website at https://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/GLMRIS-BR. The end of State & Agency Review has also been extended to February 22, 2018.
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Stakeholder Group Reference Book (password protected page)

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Meeting Materials

December 19, 2018 Meeting

July 26, 2018 Meeting

March 12, 2018 Meeting

  • Agenda (PDF, Draft 2-16-2018)
  • Presentations

October 25-26, 2017 Meeting

Letters and Reports

The Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) Advisory Committee initiated its current consensus-building effort in May 2014. Since that time the Committee has met 10 times and released a series of consensus letters to the President and U.S. Congress outlining their recommendations:

Technical Reports
Prepared by HDR

As part of the CAWS Advisory Committee process, committee members defined a series of questions and information needs. The below report summarizes the technical investigations conducted by HDR assessing the risk of invasive species transfer and impacts to navigation relative to certain control measures, as well as a high level summary of background information presented to the committee regarding flood risk and water quality, including CSOs and contaminated sediments.

Restoring the Natural Divide: Separating the Great Lakes And Mississippi River Basins in the Chicago Area Waterway System

In 2010, the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative identified engineering options for Chicago’s waterway system that would prevent interbasin movement of AIS, including Asian carp. The study also examines potential improvements to the waterway’s roles in commercial navigation, recreational boating, flood and stormwater management, and water quality.