Sen. Dick Durban’s Chicago Asian Carp Summit Uninspired

Let’s let Congress address the Asian Carp threat to Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes economy and ecosystem – that was Sen. Dick Durban’s (D-Ill) suggestion at a news conference at the Shed Aquarium in Chicago.

An array of Illinois politicos held a private meeting yesterday a.m. at the Shed and then a press conference in an attempt to show a proactive united front in dealing with this crisis. But Henry Henderson, director of the Midwest program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, was privy to the meeting and called the response by Illinois officials “surprisingly lackadaisical,” according to the New York Times.

Congress is not known for being capable of making rapid decisions, in fact, moving the members of both houses and multiple parties is more akin to turning a cruise liner around. That is most likely why Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (R) asked her Attorney General Mike Cox to take the more direct route through the court system. Michigan’s goal: to close the locks temporarily and come up with a more permanent hydrological solution such as a physical separation of the two basins. The Asian Carp threat has been growing for at least a decade but now it is an imminent crisis.

The US Supreme Court is expected to deal with Michigan’s injunction requiring the closing of the Chicago waterways this week. Six Great Lakes states and Ontario have joined in support of Michigan’s lawsuit. Fifty members of Congress, including some from Illinois, wrote a letter supporting closing the locks and a permanent separation between the Basins and sent it to President Barack Obama just before Christmas. Both shockingly and disappointingly, President Obama has sided with political allies in Chicago and Illinois arguing against closing the locks.

Those against closing the waterways say that it would hurt the local economy and could cause flooding in Chicago. A story in today’s Chicago Tribune complains that closing off the rivers to Lake Michigan would ruin the local boating community that parks in river marinas. The marinas would be forced to close, as would restaurants that cater to this seasonal crowd. The article not only failed to draw sympathy but it also failed to recognize that the Asian Carp will successfully destroy the marina business and boat recreation as the fish multiply. The fish have left the sport fishing, boating and recreational industries on the rivers that they currently occupy devastated. The vibrations from boats cause the primary school sized fish to leap up into the air. If the fish populate the area, then “The boating public would be less interested in this part of the country,” Pat McGinnis, Grand Haven’s city manager said in an interview with Bloomberg. Let’s face it, nobody wants to drive their boat through an Asian Carp rain.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have this case in the hands of the court where politics tends to play less of a role than it does in the Halls of Congress and the White House. This is a crisis of epic proportions and it needs some sage consideration.


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