U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13) today gave Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan some added support in her bid to defend Illinois against a multi-state lawsuit that threatens to close several Chicago area waterways. In a letter authored by Biggert and signed by 20 members of the state's Congressional delegation, including Representative Deborah Halvorson and Senators Dick Durbin and Roland Burris, lawmakers urged the Attorney General to press ahead with a "spirited defense' against a U.S. Supreme Court filing by Michigan and several other Great Lakes states that asks for a injunction to close two of Chicago's busiest navigational locks in order to guard against the spread of the invasive Asian carp into Lake Michigan.
In the letter, Biggert, a long-time Great Lakes advocate who since 2002 has championed Congressional efforts to halt the carp, and fellow Illinois lawmakers expressed deep misgivings about the premature move by other states to close the locks. The letter points out that major state, local, and federal efforts are already underway to block the carp, including the construction of a second permanent electronic barrier and the targeted use of fish toxin along key channels. The letter urges AG Madigan to defend against measures lacking a sound "scientific or technical' merit that would create major, unnecessary economic disruptions for Illinois businesses and shippers that rely on Chicago's waterways.
"In Chicago, our lake is our treasure, and we intend to continue leading the battle to protect the Great Lakes from the dangers posed by invasive Asian carp," said Biggert. "Even today, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other environmental stakeholders are working constantly to stop these carp using the best, scientifically sound methods available. We will continue to support this critical work, but jumping to conclusions and shutting down major Chicago shipping arteries without proper study is a move that Illinois cannot afford in this economic climate."
The letter was signed by Representative Judy Biggert, Senator Richard Durbin, Senator Roland Burris and Representatives Deborah Halvorson, Mark Kirk, Melissa Bean, John Shimkus, Danny K. Davis, Donald Manzullo, Jerry Costello, Timothy V. Johnson, Luis Gutierrez, Aaron Schock, Bill Foster, Peter Roskam, Phil Hare, Mike Quigley, Bobby Rush, Daniel Lipinski, and Jesse Jackson, Jr. The full text of the letter can be found below:
January 6, 2010
Dear Attorney General Madigan:
We write in strong support of your response to the lawsuit filed by the State of Michigan on December 21st to shut down Chicago-area locks. We understand your office is expected to mount a spirited defense against any unjustified interference with Illinois commerce.
As you are likely aware, significant and well-coordinated efforts are underway to combat the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes. Local, state, and federal officials are intensely focused on immediate solutions, such as bypass risk along the Des Plaines River, E-DNA discovery in the Cal-Sag Channel, and the recent application of Rotenone.
A longer-term solution, such as the addition of a second barrier, Barrier IIB, in the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal, will prove even more effective once completed this fall.
It is important to note that immediate closure of Chicago-area locks and dams is but one of many solutions to be considered. It is not yet justified on any scientific or technical basis and could prove economically catastrophic to Illinois and the surrounding Great Lakes economies.
In 2008, over 19 million tons of commodities moved through the O'Brien, Chicago, and Lockport locks combined. The closure of O'Brien Lock alone would cause massive loss of business and jobs for operators that move cargo, the shipyards that service the towing industry, and terminals that receive, ship, and store cargo.
As members of the Illinois Congressional delegation, we remain committed to working hand-in-hand with our local, state, and federal environmental managers to prevent the Asian carp from reaching our lakes and destroying the natural ecosystem of Illinois waterways. We will continue to make progress while balancing our vital environmental and economic interests.
Thank you for your consideration.