Tuesday, January 19, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court denies lock closure request

By Rachel Wells

Two Chicago locks will remain open for the time being, the U.S. Supreme Court announced today in response to Michigan’s request for immediate action to keep the invasive species Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

The rest of the lawsuit, still unaddressed by the court, calls for the reopening of a nearly century-old lawsuit about Chicago’s diversion of water from Lake Michigan and permanent closure of the locks.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan argued in a brief sent to the court January 5 that Illinois is not the appropriate defendant in the case because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers controls the locks. She said the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction over the dispute because lock closure is not a state versus state issue. Madigan added that the Asian carp situation has nothing to do with water diversion, the basis of the original lawsuit.

Robyn Ziegler, spokeswoman for the attorney general, said the office is “pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision” not to immediately close the locks.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said he is “extremely disappointed” with today’s decision. Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin and the Canadian province of Ontario are backing Michigan’s efforts. President Barack Obama’s administration opposes the lawsuit, calling it premature.

Cox said he is stunned by Obama’s “indifference,” which he plans to address through public pressure and congressional action.

"President Obama said he would not tolerate new threats to the Great Lakes, yet he has left the front door to Lake Michigan wide open," Cox said. "Billions in economic activity and 800,000 Michigan jobs connected with the health of the lakes are at risk.”

The court has yet to decide whether to take up the remainder of the case. February 19 is the deadline for interested parties to file positions on the case.


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