WBEZ | Mississippi River http://www.wbez.org/tags/mississippi-river Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Rock blasting puts Mississippi River in ship shape http://www.wbez.org/news/rock-blasting-puts-mississippi-river-ship-shape-104885 <p><p>ST. LOUIS &mdash; Crews have completed the most critical phase of removing bedrock that threatened barges along a crucial stretch of the drought-starved Mississippi River in southern Illinois.</p><p>The work by contractors hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has staved off the shipping industry&#39;s fears that the treacherous channel could close to traffic.</p><p>Using excavators and explosives, workers cleared 365 cubic yards of limestone and added two vital feet of depth to the channel near Thebes, Ill., about 130 miles south of St. Louis.</p><p>That phase of the work began last month and addressed the most pressing threat.</p><p>Maj. Gen. John Peabody, commander of the corps&#39; Mississippi Valley division, said Saturday that &quot;the work has deepened the channel enough to successfully maintain navigation though this critical reach of the river.&quot;<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 12 Jan 2013 15:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/rock-blasting-puts-mississippi-river-ship-shape-104885 Durbin to assess Mississippi River rock-removal effort http://www.wbez.org/news/durbin-assess-mississippi-river-rock-removal-effort-104721 <p><p>THEBES, Ill. &mdash; Two federal lawmakers from Illinois will get a firsthand look at urgent efforts to clear some Mississippi River bedrock that&#39;s crimping shipping on the waterway.</p><p>Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Bill Enyart on Monday will be briefed about the work near Thebes by Army Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard officials, then tour the site by boat before addressing reporters.</p><p>Corps-hired contractors have been working since last month to clear the underwater rock pinnacles from the river.</p><p>The effort is considered vital in ensuring that stretch of river remains open to barge traffic as the lingering drought continues to lower the level of the Mississippi.</p><p>Barge industry trade groups have expressed concern the ever-dropping river could further restrict barge weights to the point that shipping on the river is halted.</p></p> Sat, 05 Jan 2013 08:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/durbin-assess-mississippi-river-rock-removal-effort-104721 Chicago shippers breathe a sigh of relief as rock removal begins in the Mississippi River http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-shippers-breathe-sigh-relief-rock-removal-begins-mississippi-river-104488 <p><p>The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started breaking up plates of rock in the Mississippi River Wednesday, bringing relief to Chicago-area businesses concerned about a possible shipping shutdown this winter.</p><p>A rocky curve in the river near Thebes, Ill. became almost impassable in mid-December.</p><p>&ldquo;The barges can&rsquo;t get through there, they&rsquo;ll just tear their bottoms right out,&rdquo; said Chicago tugboat owner John Kindra. His boats tow barges carrying steel, petroleum and grains up and down the Calumet River, and many of those barges pass through the Mississippi.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F71889857&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The water was already unusually low in November when a separate Army Corps district announced it would reduce the flow from a northern reservoir. The goal was to preserve that district&rsquo;s water despite the continued drought conditions.</p><p>With less water coming in from the Missouri River around St. Louis, it seemed possible that a 180-mile stretch of the Mississippi River just south of St. Louis would be impossible to navigate by mid-December.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6846_023-scr.JPG" style="height: 210px; width: 280px; float: right;" title="John Kindra of Kindra Lake Towing (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>Kindra was among many who thought the situation was nearing an emergency. Barges have already reduced the weight they can carry due to the extremely low water levels south of St. Louis. If the &nbsp;Mississippi River had become impassable for shipping, that would have meant relying on trains and trucks to transport the same freight.</p><p>After a power struggle that drew in congressmen and governors from interested states, the Army Corps agreed to expedite a project excavating rock formations around Thebes.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;They did take some emergency steps and fast-track this, and this is a very good thing,&rdquo; said Kindra.</p><p>As of Wednesday the excavation involved breaking up the rock with a giant jackhammer and shifting it to deeper parts of the river. Later, it could involve drilling through the rock and blasting it out with explosives. Rock removal is expected to be completed by the end of January.</p></p> Thu, 20 Dec 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-shippers-breathe-sigh-relief-rock-removal-begins-mississippi-river-104488 Drought could lead Chicago River to reverse course (again) http://www.wbez.org/news/drought-could-lead-chicago-river-reverse-course-again-104414 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/riverreverse.jpg" style="height: 169px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Lieutenant Colonel Jim Schreiner with Senator Dick Durbin and John St. Pierre, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></div>The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in early December that without much rain or snow this winter, the Chicago River could reverse course &ndash; for the second time.</div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Given the run-around</strong></p><p>In the year 1900, the city&#39;s civil engineers&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-02/january-2-1900-reversing-chicago-river-95172" target="_blank">reversed the flow of the Chicago River</a>, sending Lake Michigan water towards the Mississippi in a famously gutsy feat of engineering. As the city and its industries grew rapidly through the late 1800s, the amount of waste and contamination dumped into the river was threatening to make the lakefront unlivable and deprive Chicagoans of safe drinking water.</p><p>When the Chicago River flows in its natural direction, &quot;what you have is a great deal of, for lack of a better word, poo, going into the Great Lakes,&quot; said Henry Henderson of the Natural Resources Defense Council.</p><p>That&rsquo;s how we got the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which served the dual purposes of diverting dirty river water away from the lake, and connecting Lake Michigan &ndash; and therefore the entire Great Lakes water basin &ndash; to the Mississippi River water system for the first time, opening up the possibility of commercial navigation between the two. Needless to say many to the south weren&#39;t happy with the new arrangement, which Henderson has described as turning Lake Michigan into <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/henry-henderson/world-toilet-day_b_2171952.html?" target="_blank">&quot;the tank that flushes our waste thousands of miles away into the Gulf of Mexico.&quot;</a></p><p>The new connection between the two water systems has also had unforeseen consequences in the form of invasive species, and lately environmentalists and fishing interests to the north have been <a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-12/un-reversing-chicago-river-88976" target="_blank">calling on the Army Corps to permanently close off the link</a> through the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) in order to prevent a full-fledged Asian carp invasion. That would also restore the river to its natural flow, and force Chicago to think differently about its water infrastructure and waste treatment.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F71626162&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong>Gravity Rules</strong></p><p>Waste treatment or not, the river might re-reverse on its own. After a long drought and one of the hottest summers ever, the water in Lake Michigan only has to go down six inches to sit below the level of the Chicago River. At that point, gravity would send the river back to where it came from.</p><p>Flowing into Lake Michigan with it: sewage runoff and only partially-treated human waste (<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-what%E2%80%99s-bottom-chicago-river-102651">among other things</a>). The <a href="http://[http://www.wbez.org/story/feds-okay-chicago-river-cleanup-93801" target="_blank">Chicago River has been somewhat cleaned up in recent years</a>, but not enough to allow an uninterrupted flow back into the city&rsquo;s main source of drinking water and recreational beaches.</p><p>And those suspicious swim advisories you hear about in the summer? The Chicago Park District has warned they will happen more often if the river reverses.</p><p>&ldquo;Anytime you reverse the flow of the Chicago River, you want to monitor and ensure that there&rsquo;s no major impacts on water quality,&rdquo; said Lieutenant Colonel Jim Schreiner, Deputy Commander for the Chicago District Corps of Engineers. He said there are occasions when the Army Corps intentionally (re)-reverses the river to control flooding. All of this is manipulated by the Corps&rsquo; control over the Chicago Harbor Lock. The Army Corps is tasked both with supporting the massive shipping industry through the waterways and with helping control contamination, in partnership with the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/reversing-course-water-agency-backs-chicago-river-cleanup-87524" target="_blank">Metropolitan Water Reclamation District</a>.</p><p>If water levels hit the lowest projections, the Army Corps will regulate lake contamination by closing the locks at Chicago for longer periods. That would limit how often boats and barges pass between the two waterways. According to Lt. Schreiner, over 40-thousand vessels pass through the locks every year in about 11,500 lockages.</p><p>This strange scenario will only come to pass if the Army Corps&rsquo; lowest possible lake level projections for the winter come true; lake levels are almost always at their yearly low in late winter. If significant rain or snow hits the Michigan-Huron region in January or February, the water will still be unusually low, but it is unlikely to lead to a major change of course.</p></p> Mon, 17 Dec 2012 12:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/drought-could-lead-chicago-river-reverse-course-again-104414 'Morning Shift' #60: The ol' switch-a-roo http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2012-12-04/morning-shift-60-ol-switch-roo-104173 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/3551345292_4395f027ca_z_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-60-the-ol-switch-a-roo.js"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-60-the-ol-switch-a-roo" target="_blank">View the story "'Morning Shift' #60: The ol' switch-a-roo" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Tue, 04 Dec 2012 08:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2012-12-04/morning-shift-60-ol-switch-roo-104173 Drought threatens to close Mississippi to barges http://www.wbez.org/news/drought-threatens-close-mississippi-barges-104099 <p><p>ST. LOUIS &mdash; After months of drought, companies that ship grain and other goods down the Mississippi River are being haunted by a potential nightmare: If water levels fall too low, the nation&#39;s main inland waterway could become impassable to barges just as the harvest heads to market.</p><p>Any closure of the river would upend the transport system that has carried American grain since before steamboats and Mark Twain. So shipping companies are scrambling to find alternative ways to move tons of corn, wheat and other crops to the Gulf Coast for shipment overseas.</p><p>&quot;You can&#39;t just wait until it shuts down and suddenly say, &#39;There&#39;s a problem,&#39;&quot; said Rick Calhoun, head of marine operations for Chicago-based Cargill Inc. &quot;We&#39;re always looking at Plan B.&quot;</p><p>The mighty Mississippi is approaching the point where it may become too shallow for barges that carry food, fuel and other commodities. If the river is closed for a lengthy period, experts say, economic losses could climb into the billions of dollars.</p><p>It isn&#39;t just the shipping and grain industries that will feel the pinch. Store prices and utility bills could rise. And deliveries of everything from road-clearing rock salt for winter and fertilizer for the spring planting season could be late and in short supply.</p><p>&quot;The longer it lasts, the worse it gets,&quot; said Don Sweeney, associate director of the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. &quot;It&#39;s inevitable that it will mean higher prices down the road.&quot;</p><p>The focus of greatest concern is a 180-mile stretch of the river between the confluences of the Missouri River near St. Louis and the Ohio River at Cairo, Ill. That&#39;s where lack of rain has squeezed the channel from its normal width of 1,000 feet or more to a just a few hundred feet.</p><p>The river depth is 15 to 20 feet less than normal, now about 13 feet deep in many places. If it dips to around 9 feet, rock pinnacles at two locations make it difficult, if not impossible, for barges to pass. Hydrologists for the National Weather Service predict the Mississippi will reach the 9-foot mark by Dec. 9.</p><p>The situation worsened last week when the Army Corps of Engineers began reducing the outflow from an upper Missouri River dam in South Dakota, where a group of experts said Thursday that the worst U.S. drought in decades had intensified sharply over the last week.</p><p>The flow is gradually being cut by more than two-thirds by Dec. 11 as part of an effort to ease the effects of the drought in the northern Missouri River basin.</p><p>Lawmakers from Mississippi River states are frustrated with the corps&#39; action and even requested a presidential emergency declaration to overturn it. So far, the White House has not responded.</p><p>On Thursday, Army Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy told Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and some of his colleagues from Iowa and Minnesota that the corps would consider dialing back the amount of water being held back from the Mississippi.</p><p>Darcy also pledged to expedite removal of rock formations south of St. Louis, though that work would take at least two months after a contractor is hired.</p><p>To Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, the stakes couldn&#39;t be higher.</p><p>&quot;There is going to be a dramatic ripple effect to our economy if the barge traffic grinds to halt, which clearly it will if something is not done to avert this crisis,&quot; she said.</p><p>Her Missouri colleague in the Senate, Republican Roy Blunt, acknowledged &quot;friction&quot; between upper Missouri River interests that control the flow and those downstream on the lower Missouri and Mississippi rivers. He said the corps &quot;needs to manage that balance.&quot;</p><p>Over the years, parts of the river have occasionally been closed because of low water, barge accidents, dredging, ice and flooding. But this shutdown, if it happens, would affect a pivotal stretch that is used for two-way traffic &mdash; shipments going south to the Gulf as well as transports from the Illinois and Ohio rivers headed north to Chicago and Minneapolis.</p><p>A two-month shutdown &mdash; the length of time that some observers fear given current conditions &mdash; would have an estimated impact of $7 billion, according to the river industry trade group American Waterways Operators.</p><p>Consider agricultural products. It costs 30 to 35 cents more per bushel to send grain to the Gulf by rail instead of barge &mdash; a massive figure when calculating the millions of bushels shipped downriver.</p><p>&quot;When you think of all we buy at the grocery store that has grain and corn, consumers could really see it hit them in the pocketbooks,&quot; said Ann McCulloch of the Waterways Operators group.</p><p>The Coast Guard controls navigation on the river and decides when to require restrictions or shut it down.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s really played by ear,&quot; Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty said. &quot;The Mississippi River is a dynamic environment.&quot;</p><p>River shippers are bracing for the worst, weighing train and truck alternatives to move a staggering volume of cargo, if necessary.</p><p>Seven million tons of farm products are shipped via barge in a typical December-January period, along with 3.8 million tons of coal, 1.7 tons of chemical products, 1.3 tons of petroleum products and 700,000 tons of crude oil, McCulloch said.</p><p>Trains already haul a vast volume of material, but switching from river to rail isn&#39;t that easy, especially on short notice. Cargill, for example, uses 1,300 of its own barges on inland waterways. Finding that much capacity elsewhere is no simple task.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;ll look for other sources of transportation to the extent we can. But if you take away this important artery, you can&#39;t just snap your fingers and replace it with trains,&quot; Calhoun said. &quot;There aren&#39;t just trains sitting around. They&#39;re already pretty busy with their business on their books.&quot;</p><p>Tractor-trailers can pick up some of the slack. But some cargo, such as coal, just isn&#39;t cost-effective to haul by truck over long distances, said Bob Costello, an economist with the American Trucking Associations.</p><p>Businesses operating directly on the river are bound to suffer, too.</p><p>George Foster founded JB Marine Service Inc. in St. Louis 36 years ago to make a living fixing and cleaning barges. An extended river closure may force layoffs, he said. And he figures many other companies will be forced to cut jobs, too.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s extremely dire,&quot; Foster said. &quot;There&#39;s no way to sugarcoat it.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 29 Nov 2012 09:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/drought-threatens-close-mississippi-barges-104099 Un-reversing the Chicago River http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-12/un-reversing-chicago-river-88976 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//frontandcenter/photo/2011-07-11/88976/P1020082.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-12/postcard-historical-glimpse-reversal-chicago-river-89000" target="_blank">Back in the 19th century</a>, Chicago had a problem: Its river went the wrong way, washing sewage into its drinking water supply in Lake Michigan, spreading diseases like cholera and dysentery. The solution sounded crazy: <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/263.html" target="_blank">turn the river around</a>. But that’s just what Chicago did, and it’s been patting itself on the back for it ever since.</p><p> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-repeat-x: no-repeat; background-repeat-y: no-repeat; background-position: 0 5px; background-position-x: 0px; background-position-y: 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; } div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted #aa211d; border-top-width: 1px; border-top-style: dotted; border-top-color: #aa211d; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; } ul { margin-left: 15px; } li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-repeat-x: no-repeat; background-repeat-y: no-repeat; background-position: 0 5px; background-position-x: 0px; background-position-y: 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-28/FNC-inset-promo.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 50px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/about-front-and-center-%E2%80%93-depth-reporting-great-lakes-87655">About Front and Center</a></strong></li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/front-door-back-door-traveling-st-lawrence-seaway-and-chicago-river-88058"><strong>Follow Gabe's trip down the Chicago river</strong></a></li></ul><p><strong>VIDEO</strong></p><p><a href="frontandcenter/2011-07-11/postcard-historical-glimpse-reversal-chicago-river-89000"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-12/Chicago_Wall-2%5B1%5D.jpg" style="width: 100px; height: 75px; float: left; margin-left: 3px; margin-right: 3px;" title=""></a><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-12/postcard-historical-glimpse-reversal-chicago-river-89000"><strong>Historical images<br> of Chicago</strong></a><a href="frontandcenter/2011-07-11/postcard-historical-glimpse-reversal-chicago-river-89000"><br> </a><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-12/postcard-historical-glimpse-reversal-chicago-river-89000"><strong>River</strong></a><br> &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></div></div><p>Now the menace isn’t waterborne disease, but invasive species. Unwelcome critters, plants and microbes are the price of connecting two great waterways that had always been separate, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.<br> <br> The new threat has civic leaders considering a fix that seems almost as audacious as reversing the river: un-reversing the river. That solution is a ways off, but it’s starting to seem a lot less far-fetched, thanks in part to a key moment in the Great Lakes’ 10,000-year long natural history. The moment came in June of 2010, just down the Calumet River from Lake Michigan.<br> <br> “We actually saw the discovery of a<a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/scientists-find-asian-carp-lake-calumet" target="_blank"> live Asian Carp</a> here right in Lake Calumet, here in Chicago,” says Joel Brammeier, president and CEO of the <a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/" target="_blank">Alliance for the Great Lakes</a>.<br> <a href="http://asiancarp.org/edna-update/" target="_blank"><br> Carp DNA</a> had already been turning up in the Chicago waterways for a while, but this was a live fish. A three-foot long, 20-pound, speckled, bug-eyed fish. It’s not clear how it got there, on the wrong side of an electric barrier meant to contain it. It may have crossed the barrier when it was tiny, or it may have been<a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/captured-asian-carp-likely-didnt-swim-north" target="_blank"> released there by someone.</a><br> In any case, it inflamed fears that the invaders are continuing their march up the Mississippi, through these man-made connections, into the Great Lakes.<br> <br> “We should expect to find live carp showing up above the barrier from time to time,” says Brammeier. “And it’s going to get worse as time goes one. We’ve got to be moving toward separating these two systems because these technology barriers simply aren’t a long-term solution.”<br> <br> Ever since engineers reversed the Chicago waterways, the link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi has been a double-edged sword. It’s been crucial to Chicago’s growth, but it’s also generated complaints about waste, pollution and invasive species. Now that the stakes are so high, and now that the problem is coming to Chicago instead of originating here, radical solutions are on the table.<br> <br> “Long-time U. S. senators are standing up asking the [Army Corps of Engineers] to study separation,” says Brammeier. “Governors, mayors, legitimate people who think about the economy and jobs every day want to know how to separate the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. We’re past the point of determining whether this is a crazy idea or not.”<br> <br> The push to take that idea seriously came, in part, on the business end of a <a href="http://www.10tv.com/live/content/onnnews/stories/2010/07/19/story_asian_carp.html" target="_blank">lawsuit</a>. Other Great Lakes states sued to force Chicago to shut down the lakefront locks. That suit has stalled in court, but the idea of un-reversing the river, a more permanent solution, has picked up steam.<br> <br> Former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley called it a “<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/elections/ct-met-daley-0911-20100910,0,5972863.story" target="_blank">great project</a>.” <a href="http://glmris.anl.gov/" target="_blank">The Army Corps of Engineers</a> is studying it, though too slowly, for some people’s tastes.<br> <br> “We do not have the luxury of time in dealing with the Asian Carp, and the potential damage they could cause in the Great Lakes is astronomical,” says David Ullrich, a career Environmental Protection Agency official and head of the <a href="http://www.glslcities.org/" target="_blank">Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative</a>. He’s co-leading another, fast-tracked study of basin separation, on behalf of Great Lakes cities and states.<br> <br> Most of the proposals they’re considering would have the effect of un-reversing the Chicago River, basically by damming it somewhere and blocking the water’s escape route to the Mississippi system.<br> <br> But that would cut a connection that lots of people use for important things. Depending on where you put barriers, Ullrich says you could wind up with a dead-end for barges and tourboats, toilet waste in the lake, or flooding in downtown Chicago.<br> <br> “What we’re trying to do is find those locations that create the least problems for all of those,” Ullrich says.<br> <br> One of those locations being considered is back down by Lake Calumet, right where that carp turned up last summer. There’s a dividing line there between the deepwater channels plied by the lake freighters, and the shallow canals, used by wide-bottomed barges. Joel Brammeier says it would make sense to build a barrier right here.<br> <br> “This is how far barges can go, this is how far freighters can go, and they meet over a barrier, and we do intermodal shipping just like the rest of the world,” he said. But then he adds quickly, “now I don’t want to understate the complexity of what I just said. We don’t walk into a room, snap our fingers and all the sudden separation occurs.”<br> <br> This project would likely be complex, expensive and controversial. Plenty of people question whether it’s even possible.<br> <br> “If it’s an Army Corps of Engineers project, I won’t live to see it,” says Senator Dick Durbin (D--Ill). “It takes them years if not decades to tackle something of this magnitude. And the cost is likely to be overwhelming.”<br> <br> Durbin helped<a href="http://archive.chicagobreakingnews.com/2010/06/asian-carp-dick-durbin-illinois-michigan-senate-congress-barack-obama-army-corps-engineers-great-lak.html" target="_blank"> push the federal government to study of separation</a>, and advocates of it hope he will be a champion. But Durbin, speaking in between bruising budget talks in Washington where colossal budget cuts were on the table, is tepid about spending billions on new, unproven projects.<br> <br> “If I could point to two or three examples around the world that have worked and are affordable, it would be a lot easier to say this may be the answer,” he says. “At this point, I’m not sure.”<br> <br> The cost of un-reversing the river is still unknown, but it would go well beyond just engineering and construction. For one thing, cutting off a hundred-year-old shipping lane would have serious consequences for industry. Nowhere is that clearer than around the industrial corridor that hugs the Sanitary and Ship Canal through Lockport, Romeoville and Lemont.<br> <br> Lockport alderman Pete Colarelli mounts a bridge over the canal, right where the Army Corps of Engineers has its <a href="http://www.lrc.usace.army.mil/AsianCarp/BarrierBrochure.pdf" target="_blank">electric barrier</a>, and commands a view of the throbbing refinery and small mountain range of jet-black coal piles. Barges and freight trains ply the corridor with ore and salt, fueling the factories and taking their product to market.<br> <br> “I believe it was Judy Biggert, U.S. Congresswoman, who said if the canal were closed, it would bring immediate Depression-like environment to the area,” says Colarelli. “I think that’s accurate. If the canal is closed, there are a number, if not all of the businesses here would close down.”<br> <br> Few of the serious proposals being considered would completely shut down this canal, and there are ways to get stuff over or around barriers. Still, business groups say those methods would send costs through the roof, forcing many to close or move.<br> <br> But for all that, the more intractable problem might be the water itself. Severing the connection to the Mississippi could leave storm water with no escape route, risking major floods in downtown Chicago and elsewhere. <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-03-19/health/ct-met-0320-deep-tunnel-problems-20110319_1_overflows-chicago-s-deep-tunnel-waterways" target="_blank">New infrastructure to slurp up that water</a> could make a giant project even bigger. And even though Chicago’s sewage district has agreed in principle to start disinfecting its effluent, there’s a lot more work to do before that wastewater could be directed into Lake Michigan.<br> <br> David Ullrich, the co-leader of the states’ and cities’ study, struggled to think of another public works project on this scale. “Comparing it with other projects, I don’t know. The pyramids?”<br> <br> So could the pyramids have gotten built in these times? For that matter, could the Chicago River have been reversed in the first place? Down on the Chicago River’s South Branch, just outside his office building, Ullrich says this is another chance for Chicago to redefine its relationship with water. And he’s pretty sure he’ll live to see this water flow the other direction.<br> <br> “Chicago makes no small plans. And I’m confident that this is another big plan that can be a reality,” Ullrich says.</p><p>Subduing this river is such a part of Chicago’s identity --even the city’s flag memorializes it. It’s still hard to picture a Chicago where the runs the other way. But within the next year Ullrich’s study may, for the first time, begin to fill out what that Chicago might look like.</p></p> Tue, 12 Jul 2011 18:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-12/un-reversing-chicago-river-88976