Friday, February 19, 2010
Lyman Welch, attorney and Water Quality Program manager for the Alliance said, "An issue of this magnitude and consequence for all of the Great Lakes states should land squarely in the Supreme Court. We're asking the Court to intervene in an unprecedented crisis that, left unchecked, will impact the livelihoods of all who depend on a healthy Great Lakes." Alliance President Joel Brammeier, who co-authored a study on the subject in 2008 said, "The permanent solution is not technology, but what we call 'ecological separation' -- or no movement of live organisms between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River via the canals."Built to divert Chicago's wastewater away from Lake Michigan and into the Illinois River, the groups indicated that the City's complex system of rivers and canals creates an "aquatic superhighway for the jumbo-sized Asian carp and other invasives to travel between the Lake Michigan and Mississippi watersheds." The environmental groups have called for a physical separation of the two watersheds -- essentially returning them to their natural status -- as the only permanent way to protect both basins. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission and U.S.-Canadian International Joint Commission (IJC) have commended the Alliance for leading the separation initiative, and the concept is now supported by most experts, states and the international community as the only long-term solution.
The Supreme Court on January 19 rejected Michigan's request for a preliminary injunction to temporarily seal off two Chicago-area locks and waterways leading into Lake Michigan [See WIMS 1/19/10 & 1/20/10]. The court has not yet ruled on another Michigan request to reopen a nearly century-old case in which the high court allowed Chicago to divert its wastewater from Lake Michigan to the Illinois River, despite the protests of the other Great Lakes states. Thom Cmar, attorney with NRDC said, "The Asian carp invasion is a crisis, but it's also an economic opportunity for Chicago and the entire Great Lakes region. By investing in a real solution to stop this army of fish, at the same time we can create new jobs and move toward sustainable transportation and wastewater infrastructure. The multi-billion dollar Great Lakes fisheries, tourism and recreation industries are at stake. The Supreme Court should take this case so we can bring the states together to solve this problem."
Michigan and the environmental groups argue that the Supreme Court should appoint a "special master" -- an expert in water law, shipping, or related fields -- to decide whether to temporarily close the locks on Chicago-area canals and create an ecological separation between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins. NRDC's Cmar said, "Having the Supreme Court available as this neutral arbiter of disputes among states would take it out of this world we're in now where we're being asked by the state of Illinois and the Army Corps to just trust them. There are all sorts of reasons why we're concerned we can't simply trust them."
Access a release from the groups (click here). Access the 31-page amicus brief to the Supreme Court (click here). Access a blog posting by NRDC with further explanation of the legal action (click here). Access a release and link to the Alliance study on ecological separation (click here). Access links to all Michigan filings in the Supreme Court case (click here). Access the Michigan, Illinois and all legal filings in the case (click here).