Summit generates possible solutions to exchange of invasive species in Midwest waterways

CHICAGO (May 22, 2003) Nearly 70 top scientists, engineers and invasive-species experts from around the globe gathered in Chicago last week to generate ideas for halting the exchange of invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River drainage basins. According to these experts, invasive species are the greatest threat to both the economy and ecology of the Great Lakes and are responsible for $137 billion a year in economic losses nationwide.

Convened by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Chicago Department of Environment and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Aquatic Invasive Species Summit was designed to introduce the diverse experts to the Chicago region's manmade waterway system, and to have them brainstorm solutions to the transport of invasive species through those waterways.

Non-native species threaten native species. More than 160 non-native species now live in the Great Lakes drainage basin, and nearly the same number live in the Mississippi River drainage basin. These two basins are connected by the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Cal-Sag Channel (CSSC), which together constitute a "revolving door" for invasive species.

"The longer you put off solving a problem, the more it costs you in the long run. An aggressive solution to a problem is almost always cheaper than repairing the damage later," said Mayor Daley, who recently launched a comprehensive water agenda initiative that includes protecting the Great Lakes from harmful invasive species. "Sometimes we have to be bold about it and not be afraid of taking some active steps protecting us against invasive species." The Mayor pointed out that over the last 40 years, a newly established population of invasive species has been found in the Great Lakes every eight months.

"We are under attack from biological invaders ranging from microbes to mammals that threaten our heritage and our health," said Robyn Thorson, regional director of the U.S. F

Contact: Christine Esposito
Chicago Department of Environment

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