Tuesday, January 19, 2010

So Sue Us!

Oh, wait. They already did... the rest of the Midwest, that is. Michigan started it, slapping the State of Illinois with a lawsuit to stop the migration of the Asian Carp toward Lake Michigan by closing the locks on the Illinois Sanitary and Ship Canal. If you recall, this waterway was the site of a massive fish kill last month, an attempt by the Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep the dreaded fish from swimming past the electrical barriers (a device that emits underwater shock waves, designed to keep these fish downstream) while they were shut off for some routine maintenance.

Michigan's governor, Jennifer Granholm (who I actually like-- she was governor during my time in Ann Arbor) launched the initial suit against Illinois, while Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, and even New York were quick to jump on her legal bandwagon. Our attorney general, Lisa Madigan (who I also like-- she lives in my neighborhood!) argued that the case was misdirected, because the Army Corps of Engineers, and not the State of Illinois, operates the locks on the canal. If Michigan wanted to sue somebody, it should be them.

Bloggers and reporters have been all over this issue since news of the lawsuit broke about three weeks ago; some claim that Daniel Burnham (the guy who, among other things, had some say over reversing the flow of the Chicago River) is spinning in his grave, while others suggest that Michigan should sue the carp themselves for trespassing. I have no desire to get snarky about the matter; we need to do everything we can to protect the Great Lakes, but crippling the state's shipping industry is not the answer! And for the record, when it comes to lawsuits pitting the environment against industry, industry wins out the vast majority of the time. We need another approach.

That's why I was so happy to hear today that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, bumping it back down to the state courts. Something needs to be done, but we need scientists-- not lawyers-- calling the shots here. Hoever, this comes at the same time that biologists are saying that Asian Carp DNA (although not the fish themselves... yet) has in fact been found in Lake Michigan, which is a very scary prospect, indeed. Although Michigan was defeated in this round, they are not deterred; they plan on taking their case to Congress, and are lobbying President Obama to force Illinois to cut off an arterial waterway (although I can't be certain, I'm pretty sure that's not his job...) So we certainly haven't heard the last of this story, but the drama continues to unfold.

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