Illinois Port District




Illinois International Port District

Environmental Impact


The Illinois International Port District is the steward to a natural and man-made harbor which includes a variety of land masses encompassing it.  The Port District, as a public agency, has adopted a best management practices manual which it helped develop with the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute, University of Minnesota, and Purdue University.  This manual suggests operational controls, environmental impacts, and other aspects of port operations like those used in ISO 14,001 environmental management systems EMS standards.  This environmental management system (EMS) is a tool which the Port District can use to integrate with its policies, practices, and procedures for the operations of the facility.  Some of the identified practices are: 

Another crucial element that the Port District has been involved with, along with the Illinois Indiana Sea Grant Program and the University of Illinois, is bringing awareness and information on ballast water, its best management, and the regulation of it to stop aquatic nuisance species from entering our waters.

The Port District worked diligently to express the concerns of its tenants and maritime users to voice their objection to the closing of the waterway without having a completed study by the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers.  The Port District’s comments, which were given to the Chicago Area Waterway Study, appear below.

Illinois International Port District Statement to the Chicago Area Waterway Study

On behalf of the Illinois International Port District the following comments are provided to the Great Lakes Commission /Great Lakes Cities Initiative, regarding the October 19, 2011 presentation to the Advisory Committee of the Chicago Area Waterway System Study.

First, based on presentations and comments made to date, we believe the leadership of the study has already concluded that the Chicago Waterway system should be permanently closed by a barrier. We support protecting the Great Lakes from invasive species and we believe a comprehensive review of all pathways, their anticipated effectiveness and their cost must be reviewed.

During the advisory committee meetings, the number of $5 billion dollars in annual cost to the Great Lakes has been cited. We have never seen a basis for this number.  We also question how many of these dollars are the result of invasive species entering the Great Lakes thru the Chicago Waterway System and how many of these dollars result from invasive species entering thru the St. Lawrence Seaway. We expect the vast majority of these damages would exist with or without a Chicago Waterway closure.

There are nineteen aquatic pathways for invasive species to pass between the inland waterway system and the Great Lakes. The interconnection of the Chicago Waterway system is only one of these pathways. Other pathways includes other waterway connections to the Great Lakes, movement of recreational boat, airborne transmission by birds and waterfowl , etc., are all potential  transmission routes. Remember the Finger Lakes, and  other inland California lakes all land locked, have zebra mussels, which do not get there thru water transportation (or through the Chicago Waterway system).
We applaud the work of the Corp of Engineers with their electric barriers, and the State of Illinois with its comprehensive response program which have prevented Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes thru the Chicago waterway system.

The Chicago Waterway system currently provides a high level of economic activity and well paying jobs to the City of Chicago, State of Illinois and the entire Region. Closure of the Chicago Waterway system with a second handling of cargo would add cost and time to water transportation and shift jobs and economic activity away from the area. One of your consultants, John Vickerman, has correctly pointed out the when the 3rd lock at the Panama Canal opens, there is a potential for expanded trade and shipping thru New Orleans to Chicago. He is correct, but we must point this opportunity exist with or without closure of the Chicago Waterway system. The opportunity is greater with the waterway open.

Your consultants have provided a number of preliminary estimates mitigating the closure of the waterway system. The costs for flood control mitigation, water quality improvements, relocating Port Facilities, transportation and infrastructure improvements would be astronomical. Your consultants estimates add up to $15,000,000,000.00 to $20,000,000,000.00.

We do not support closing the Chicago Waterway system for three reasons:

1) We are not convinced that closing the Waterways will accomplish the goal of preventing invasive species , and specifically the Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes, unless a comprehensive review and analysis of all 19 pathways and their probability of transport is analyzed.

2), We believe closing the waterways will have a negative impact on jobs and economic activity, impacting Chicago, Illinois and the Illinois International Port District.

3), The leaders of the study have continuly implied that resources to fund this mitigation are easily available. With the mitigation estimates at $15,000,000,000.00 to $20,000,000,000.00, we seriously question this assumption.  The City of Chicago, Cook County, and the State of Illinois all have very serious budget issues. Federal funding falling under discretionary funding has recently suffered serious cuts. In addition, with the federal super-committee examining specific cuts of 1.4 trillion dollar it is unrealistic to assume the City of Chicago, Cook County, the State of Illinois, or the Federal government is going to provide $15,000,000,000.00 to $20,000,000,000.00 in funding.