Evidence of meeting #43 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was great.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

David Ullrich  Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Ullrich, it's certainly good to have you here. You are an excellent witness and you know the subject.

Is it just inevitable that they're going to be in the Great Lakes if we do not put the barriers up? Do you think the carp will be in the Great Lakes? Is this a necessary move to prevent the Asian carp from entering?

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

I believe that it is absolutely essential and if I felt it were inevitable, I wouldn't be spending my time on this.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

I agree that you would.

Now, there is a lot of money involved here—millions of dollars.

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Can you just explain to me a bit, as I am a farmer, how it works? The water is going to move. You talk about physical barriers. What are they going to be? The water still has to move.

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

Well, first of all, back before 1900 this Chicago area was essentially a mid-continental divide between the Great Lakes basin and the Mississippi River basin.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

So it doesn't have to move.

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

Yes, it does, and it moved in two directions. In 1900 a canal was dug, roughly 28 miles long, connecting the Chicago River, which had flowed into Lake Michigan but was carrying Chicago's pollution to the drinking water source, with people dying as a result of drinking the waste, and sent it downstream, which isn't a good solution. It relocated the problem.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Being an environmentalist, that's a—

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

Yes. St. Louis and other areas were not consulted about this.

But basically the theory behind this most viable of the three options that are included, the mid-system option, is that it comes closest to re-establishing the natural divide where it was before. Basically what you do is to put earth and fill—concrete sheet piling—in several locations. I don't know if—

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

But the water would still flow.

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

It would flow in two directions. On the lake side it would flow to the lake, and on the river side it would flow to the river.

Basically what it would do is stop the invasive species, including the carp, from getting up to Lake Michigan through the waterway, which is wide open right now. It's just totally open and the carp can go through there. But this has the advantage that it would stop everything else going to Lake Michigan, and everything going from Lake Michigan down to the Mississippi River watershed.

Probably the most notorious of the invasive species that have gone through the system is the zebra mussels, a species that is all the way out in California. The zebra mussels came right through downtown Chicago, which is how they got out there.

Again, 39 different species have been documented—29 in the Great Lakes and 10 in the Mississippi River—as essentially ready to go in one direction or another.

That's the beauty of going with the physical separation. I think there are a number of Canadian and U.S. scientists who really believe this is the only way you can really have a chance at stopping them. It doesn't reduce the risk to zero because you're always going to have—

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

A flood....

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

—some rogue who is going to put them in a truck and try to drive them to Toronto, and we have to beef up our law enforcement with regard to that.

June 18th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

But you talk about time being essential and it will be 2030, and of course, with government doing it, it will not be 2030 either. There is a long time to go before you're going to have these in place if it's done. So you have the better part of 20 years, probably, before you'll have in place what you recommend. Hopefully they will not get in during that time, but would you like to comment on that?

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

That's why the interim measures are so important.

There was an article just last week in the U.S. newspapers about the corps of engineers' work in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They basically did a $14.5 billion project in three years. I am convinced that if a decision were made that this needed to be done and were expedited, it could be done a lot faster than that.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Are we anywhere close to coming to a decision? Is there any way our governments...? There is a lot of money involved here.

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Is it anywhere close, do you feel? Are we within two or three years, or is it just an ongoing thing we're discussing? Where are we in the planning stage for this? I know where you are, but I just wonder where the people with the money are.

4:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

One of the major reasons for doing this was to show that it's feasible; another was to do whatever we could to try to accelerate the process.

Yes, it probably will be about two to three years before a decision will be made. Congress is putting a great deal of pressure on the Army Corps of Engineers to accelerate that. I would offer that a strong expression of interest from Canada in this matter could only help.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Well, we're going to write a report.

4:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

David Ullrich

I think making sure that the United States knows how important this is to Canadians would help. Every time I cross the border and I say I work on the Great Lakes, your border patrol people ask me about keeping the Asian carp out. The Canadian mayors in our organization have requested that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers come and make a presentation in Canada, and we're in the process of trying to arrange something for next October in Toronto so Canadian citizens can know more about what's going on with this.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

I think that citizens do things and they do not really understand the harm of what they are doing. You talked about the Americans. Well, you actually took them into the country legally—

4:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

—and put them in place, introduced them. But do we not need more education? I believe if people understood that you're talking about billions of dollars in the economy.... In the last couple of years they stopped nine at the border coming into Canada.