Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fish fight

View Lost Peninsula, Michigan in a larger map
The Buckeyes and Wolverines have hated each other for a while. I just finished reading a book called "The Toledo War" that chronicles the border dispute between the states in the mid-1830s. The dispute was mostly resolved when Ohio was given Toledo--and the pivotal Maumee River port and basin--and Michigan was given the consolation prize of most of the Upper Peninsula. Michigan and Ohio also squabbled over the Lost Peninsula, which extends north from Ohio into Lake Erie. Michigan wound up with part of the peninsula, even though it's only accessible by driving through Ohio.

Now, Midwestern states are fighting again. Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio have sued Illinois, reviving the century-old dispute over the reversal of the Chicago River. The other states want the Land of Lincoln to close the locks to Lake Michigan and take steps to mitigate flooding of the Des Plaines River and the Sanitary and Ship Canal. Why? Because of the Asian carp's inexorable flow north from the Mississippi River Valley. Still, it's interesting that the Land of 10,000 Lakes is involved. The carp already resides in the state's Mississippi River waters. And some reports suggest the carp can't survive in the cold of Lake Superior, Minnie's only Great Lakes shoreline.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mind bender

Hellbender. Uttering the name conjures images of Mad Max or that pin-headed movie character. Actually, a hellbender is a type of giant salamander that inhabits remotes streams of the Appalachians. Someone pulled a similar creature out of Lake Michigan near Navy Pier not so long ago. At first, it was called a hellbender. It was later corrected--it's actually a mudpuppy or water dog. They reside on the bottom of lakes and streams throughout the Midwest.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jolly time

Scenes from a Christmas tree search in DeKalb County. We did some casual birding on country roads on the way back and saw a northern harrier (hovering over a corn field), a flock of snow buntings and lots of horned larks and red-tailed hawks. And we stopped at Two Brothers Brewery for lunch in Warrenville.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fried squirrel

I'm taking a break from the Asian carp story to get back to the basics. A squirrel left 9,000 people without power in a Cleveland suburb the other day.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sanitation day

Michigan is set to file a lawsuit to close canal locks leading to Lake Michigan in hopes of stopping the Asian carp. The suit would dredge up (pun intended) complaints from the 1920s. Wikipedia has a nice summary of the Sanitary and Ship Canal (Sanitary goes before the Ship, unlike several of my earlier posts), the lovely waterway created by a turn-of-the-century engineering marvel that reversed the flow of Chicago's rivers toward the Mississippi basin.

Friday, December 4, 2009

One fish

I often have lines from 1980s movies running through my head. My inner monologue attempts to make sense of the world through movies like "One Crazy Summer" and "Hoosiers." So when news came across that only one Asian carp turned up when the Ship and Sanitary Canal was poisoned yesterday, a movie quote popped into my head.

In "Major League," Bob Uecker plays broadcaster Harry Doyle. When Doyle looks at the box score of another Indians' loss, he exclaims, "One hit? All we got was one goddamn hit?"

So here goes: One fish? All we got was one goddamn fish?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

More carping

Was linking the St. Lawrence watershed with the Mississippi River watershed more than 100 years ago a mistake? Was it worth it to reverse the flow of the Chicago River and connect it to canals that emptied into the Illinois River and ultimately the Mighty Miss? Was all that barge traffic that important, even as trains, trucks and planes have mostly made water transport obsolete? These are the questions worth asking as officials dump Rotenone into a canal near Lockport, Ill., as evidence shows the Asian carp may be way beyond the area that is now being poisoned. All that 19th century engineering could have effects from here to Buffalo, N.Y., and beyond. As one online commenter said earlier today, this is the most underreported Chicago story of 2009.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hawk watch

Red-tailed hawks are everywhere right now. Today, I saw two--one in a stand of poplars amid an industrial area of the Southwest Side and another in a small tree between I-90 and a little apartment complex near Park Ridge. We saw dozens along I-94 during the weekend, between here and the western suburbs of Detroit. One was pulling at the remains of some type of prey along the berm of U.S. 23 on Friday morning, in plain view. Most every white spot in a tree or clump in a shrub turned out to be a hawk this weekend.

Something fishy

It doesn't take a geographer, or even a biologist, to tell you that the handling of the Asian carp invasion has been weird. Dale Bowman of the Sun-Times agrees in his latest column. He documents a number of catches in Chicago lagoons that show that the carp already has been present in town since perhaps 2003. A glance at a map shows that there were a lot of holes (e.g. interconnected waterways) in the Army Corps' plan to deter the fish. The new plan to poison a section of the Ship and Sanitary Canal, days after evidence of the carp was found on the Calumet River, a different waterway altogether, reinforces the idea that this is a big boondoggle. The carp continue to outpace us, and it's only the Great Lakes that are at stake.