The reality, of course, turned out to be far more complicated and expensive. It would be nearly 200 years before the first, 96-mile connection — the Illinois and Michigan Canal — was completed, and another 50 before the current connection — the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal — opened its locks for the first time.
Finished in 1900, the latter canal created a shorter, 28-mile route linking the two waterways. Even more significantly, it was engineered to reverse the flow of the Chicago River and instead carry the growing city’s wastewater away from its drinking supply in Lake Michigan. By moving then-untreated waste away from the crown jewel of the lake, Chicago was able to put off dealing with many of the consequences of man-made intervention in the Midwest’s ecosystem.
But after more than a hundred years, it looks as though it’s time to pay the price. And it’s going to be an expensive one. Over the last decade or so, a huge range of interests — from environmental groups to fishermen to shipping experts to politicians — have raised the alarm over just how much this artificial connection has created an opening for invasive species such as the Asian carp to make their way through North America’s waterways. And the costs associated with the damage caused by these species have been high enough to prompt serious consideration of closing off the link between the Mississippi and the Great Lakes.
How high? First, consider the figure $18 billion. That’s the estimate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released last week to re-insert a physical separation between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi system. The full report, the Great Lakes and Interbasin Mississippi River Study, was commissioned by Congress to address the growing threat of invasive species in the area known as the Chicago Area Waterway System.
The final report details a wide spectrum of actions — ranging from essentially maintaining the status quo to engineering a complete separation over a 25-year period — but doesn’t offer recommendations on which course to take.
As much of the country endures from the heavy snowfall and bitter cold that has marked the start of 2014, municipalities in 26 states will rely on a crucial tool in clearing their roads: salt. Because the freezing point of salty water is a lower temperature than pure water, scattering some salt atop ice or snow can help accelerate the melting process, opening up the roads to traffic that much sooner.
It’s estimated that more than 22 million tons of salt are scattered on the roads of the U.S. annually—about 137 pounds of salt for every American. But all that salt has to go somewhere. After it dissolves—and is split into sodium and chloride ions—it gets carried away via runoff and deposited into both surface water (streams, lakes and rivers) and the groundwater under our feet. Consider how easily salt can corrode your car.
Unsurprisingly, it’s also a problem for the surrounding environment—so much that in 2004, Canada categorized road salt as a toxin and placed new guidelines on its use. And as more and more of the U.S. becomes urbanized and suburbanized, and as a greater number of roads criss-cross the landscape, the mounting piles of salt we dump on them may be getting to be a bigger problem than ever. Data from long-term studies of watersheds bear this out.
A group of scientists that tracked salt levels from 1952 to 1998 in the Mohawk River in Upstate New York, for instance, found that concentrations of sodium and chloride increased by 130 and 243 percent, respectively, with road salting the primary reason as the surround area became more developed.
More recently, a study of a stream in southeastern New York State that was monitored from 1986 to 2005 found a similar pattern, with significant annual increases and road salting to blame for an estimated 91 percent of sodium chloride in the watershed.
A 15-year-old majorette who performed at some of President Barack Obama’s recent inauguration festivities has been shot to death in Chicago.
Police say Hadiya Pendleton was shot in the back Tuesday in a South Side park and died at a city hospital.
Authorities say Hadiya was one of about 12 teenagers sheltering from heavy rain under a canopy when a man jumped a fence, ran toward the group and opened fire. The man fled the scene in a vehicle. No arrests have been made.
Police in Chicago vs. protesters right now. Watch.
Photographer Jon Lowenstein went out on assignment from Newsweek photographing the neighborhoods of Englewood and Little Village, among others, to look at the rise in violence in Chicago’s South side and the impact it is having on the people there. In the above photo, he captures a neighborhood almost completely abandoned, looking east from Halsted St., south of 63rd St. in Englewood.