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Report: It's costly to close locks to block Asian carp

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce released an economic impact analysis reporting that a permanent closure of the Chicago and O'Brien locks to stop the spread of Asian carp could eventually cost $4.7 billion.

The report says the cost would be $582 million the first year, $531 million annually during the next seven years and would result in a net loss of $4.7 billion during a 20-year planning horizon.

"Between April and June each year, an estimated 2,600 recreational boats depart marinas, boat ramps or winter storage facilities on the Chicago River or Cal Sag Channel en route to Chicago Park District facilities on Lake Michigan, where they remain for the summer .... The lost value to boat users from losing their preferred option would, as a rough approximation, be about $5.1 million annually," the report said.

The report, conducted by DePaul University economist Joseph Schwieterman, stands in contrast to Michigan's Taylor and Roach report, which said the impact of lock closure on the Chicago economy would fall within the range of $64 million to $69 million annually.

"Beyond the economics, we question the science as well. The eDNA test cited in claims that Asian carp are above the electric barrier was only recently developed within the past year, and has not had the benefit of peer review to determine its reliability or accuracy," said Jim Farrell, executive director of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce's Infrastructure Council, in a statement.

"Essentially, the Asian carp debate has been fueled by an unscientific economic analysis and an experimental eDNA test. This hardly seems like sufficient evidence to bring the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation and a billion-dollar industry to a halt," he added.

Two weeks of recent targeted fishing in areas above the electronic barrier yielded no Asian carp, calling into question the original eDNA testing mechanism used to detect the carp's existence, according to the chamber.

"It is the chamber's hope that this study will bring some well-reasoned perspective to a debate that has been fueled by rhetoric from the state of Michigan," said Farrell.

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