U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13) today spoke out against an amendment(#24) filed in the House of Representatives that would shut down Chicago's major water routes, cutting off the Great Lakes from billions of dollars in maritime commerce from the Mississippi River. The amendment, filed by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI- 4), would prohibit the use of federal funds contained in a fiscal year 2011 appropriations bill currently under consideration from being used by the Army Corps of Engineers to open Chicago's locks, except in flooding emergencies. Targeted at the Thomas J. 0 Brien Lock and Dam and the Chicago River Controlling Works, the amendment is designed to create a barrier against the Asian carp, but according to scientific experts, closing the locks would do little to stop the fish from migrating towards the Lake and would deal a devastating blow to the Chicago area's economy. Biggert issued the following statement:
"The Supreme Court has twice rejected efforts by Michigan officials to irresponsibly shut down Chicago's waterways. This amendment is just another legislative end-run around an argument they already lost. As a result of lock closure, local businesses would fail, jobs would be lost, and maritime industries -- from tours to tow boats -- would be decimated. Even more widespread would be the economic damage from the loss of over $29 billion in barge traffic that provides the Midwest with coal, asphalt, gravel, grain, road salt and so many other vital commodities. Those costs would immediately be passed on to consumers, businesses, and cash-strapped municipalities. Short-sighted and ineffective measures like these are no substitute for the scientific solutions that are needed to protect our lake and Illinois jobs.
"Worse, closing down these navigational waterways holds no promise of stopping the carp. Studies have shown that the locks are too leaky to be a reliable barrier. And while some legislative proposals allow the locks to be open in instances of flooding, evidence suggests that Asian Carp would bypass the barriers in the event of flooding -- whether the locks were open or not. Flooding is exactly how the carp first escaped from southern fish ponds and into our rivers in the 1970's.
"I and my colleagues in the Illinois delegation have been leading the charge to safeguard against these invasive species from day one, but all Great Lakes states share a stake in this issue. They should be working with us, not against us. The amendment is expected to reach the floor for debate sometime before the House adjourns on Thursday. I will be working hard throughout this process to educate my colleagues and House leaders about this issue, and my hope is that this amendment will quickly be withdrawn or rejected."