Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Asian Carp continues to cost taxpayer's money

I noticed the following photo when I checked out a satellite image of the Brandon Lock and Dam.

Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study
I learned that it is not only a matter of keeping bad things (invasive species) in the Mississippi River Basin from getting into the Great Lakes, it is also a matter of keeping unwanted species from migrating in the opposite direction. I've already seen proposals for reversing the reversing of the Chicago River. That is, put a physical barrier between the two bodies of water and stop all water transport (barge traffic) between the river system and the Great Lakes. But all three options presented to reverse the reverse are expensive.

One proposal is to simply build a $5.9 million wall and shut down the lock. ("The fish escaped a Lake of the Ozarks farm during 1994 flooding.") The Great Lakes commercial, recreational and tribal fisheries are estimated to be worth $7 billion and 75,000 jobs. [Hearld-News] The two intermodal railroad yards that have been built south of Joliet have already made a bad traffic situation on I-57 and, especially, I-80 worse. Moving the unloading/loading of all iron, steel, coal, cement, salt, sand, rock, grain, petcoke, chemicals, petroleum products, ethanol, etc. onto trucks south of the dam will make the horrible Chicago area traffic even worse. I'm sure we are talking about truck traffic that will be at the legal limit for axle weight. That is, the kind of trucks that tear up highways. Maybe after enough of us leave Illinois, the traffic will become bearable again.

Actually, an alternative to transloading between barge and trucks south of the lock would be to use rail instead of barges. A quick scan of a satellite image shows that many of the industries that use barges still have rail spurs. But it would require that the Class I railroads learn how to service industries again.

Ben Brockshmidt, vice president of policy for the Illinois Chamber, "wants to see a new 1,200' lock built at Brandon Road. Modern shipping uses 15-barge tows." [Hearld-News] In my mind, arguing that Brandon should have a 1,200' lock destroys Brockshmidt's credibility in my mind. Has he even looked at what actually goes through Brandon Lock? I have seen only one 15-barge tow go north of Joliet. I still haven't figured out where it went. That is, who has enough room for a tow that big? Normally, a 6-barge tow would be large in the Chicagoland area. Much of the traffic is just one or two barges. There are 600' locks on the Mississippi with a much greater need to be upgraded to 1,200'.

"According the Brandon Road lock data cited in the AGs report, traffic has steadily declined from 17.8 million tons shipped on 11,038 barges through the locks in 2006 to 11.2 million tons on 6,634 barges in 2016. Of that cargo, 2.4 million tons were iron and steel, 1.7 million tons were coal, 1.6 million tons were petroleum, 1.4 million tons were aggregates and 1.3 million tons were chemicals on average between 2012 to 2014....In August, the Army Corps of Engineers released its recommendation of a $275 million proposal for several carp-deterring features, including a package of noise generation, an electric barrier, an engineered channel, a flushing lock and water jets that it believes will decrease the likelihood of a Lake Michigan carp invasion from 36 to 15 percent." [Hearld-News] The coal traffic is going away. I wonder where the iron and steel is going. Whereever it is, there is probably a railroad alternative. I say for $275m, build the $5.9m wall and learn how to use the railroads again. It looks like the Illinois politicians have another opportunity to embarrass me by arguing that we need to spend $275m rather than $6m. They could impress me by allocating the saved $269m to the CREATE program to improve the efficiency of the railroads in Chicago so that the barge freight would move to railroads rather than trucks..

I also learned that there are a lot of bad things in each water basin, not just Asian Carp. (detailed list)
USACE
At first I was surprised that I could not find Asian Carp. It turns out that is a generic name for the Silver Carp and Bighead Carp. I don't know why I could not find Zebra Mussels in the list of baddies in the Great Lakes Basin. The last I read they clog up the intakes to water treatment and power plants. And they so efficiently filter feed that the water becomes clear. But clear water means there is no food for the desirable food chain.

(new window) I wonder why they censored the 3-barge tow going down in the lock.


(new window) I never did see the water turn color. I was expecting green or orange. The fluorometer must be quite sensitive. After the first 40 seconds, I recommend skipping to a little after 2:30. After the lock is empty, skip to 4:50 where they open the fill valves 25% with the lower gates open. Then skip to 6:30 where they start a normal lock fill.




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