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February 5, 2010

Michigan renews request for closure of Chicago locks in Asian carp crisis

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Written by: Bruce Snook
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LANSING –  Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox Thursday (February 4th) filed a renewed motion with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a preliminary injunction to close Chicago-area locks because of new information that became available after the Court denied the original motion on January 19th.

Cox pointed to eDNA tests showing evidence of Asian carp in Lake Michigan that was available three days before the Court made its decision but not provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until afterward.  In the aftermath of this revelation, Michigan’s motion questions the lack of action by Illinois and federal authorities to increase efforts against the spread of Asian carp despite claims they made in earlier legal filings that they would  “re-visit the conclusions related to lock closure” in the event new information became available.

Additionally, Michigan’s motion includes an economic study on the effects of the closure of the locks necessary to separate the Mississippi River basin from the Great Lakes basin.  The study, conducted by a Wayne State University transportation expert, concludes Illinois’ claim that “even a temporary closure of the locks will devastate the local economy” cannot be supported.  For example:

•    Statistics previously submitted to the Court by Illinois and the federal government on the potential economic costs of lock closure are “seriously exaggerated.”  The report says annual costs would amount to less than $70 million, much lower than the $190 million claim made by Illinois and the federal government.  This stands in contrast to the billions in economic activity and thousands of jobs at risk if Asian carp enter the Great Lakes.
•     While noting the canal system would largely remain open to barge traffic after a lock closure, cargo though the O’Brien Lock is already down 45 percent in recent years, showing its rapidly declining significance in Chicago’s $521 billion economy.
•     Truck traffic would increase by only 1/10 of 1 percent as a result of lock closure, while jobs would likely increase overall as a result of the new modes of transposition needed, like trucking.

“We think the Court should take another look at our request to hit the pause button on the locks until the entire Great Lakes region is comfortable that an effective plan is in place to stop Asian carp,” said Cox.  “While we would like to see significant and immediate action as a result of next week’s meeting between the governors and administration, that is an unknown at this time, so our battle to protect the Lakes will continue.”

Cox noted that Michigan’s request to reopen the “Chicago Diversion” case, supported by Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Province of Ontario, remains before the Supreme Court and that briefs are due by February 19.  That request seeks a long-term solution to the crisis that will protect the ecology and economy of the Great Lakes.

Cox also said that President Obama, who previously pledged a zero tolerance policy for new invasive species in the Great Lakes, should act immediately to at least temporarily close the locks.  Cox praised the bi-partisan efforts of Michigan’s Congressional delegation on the issue, including legislation recently introduced by Rep. Dave Camp and Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Cox reminds the public that they can help bring attention to the issue by signing an online petition to protect the Lakes at www.StopAsianCarp.com.

Source:  News release from Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox






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