As attorney general, it’s Lisa Madigan’s job is to defend the state of Illinois.
But Monday, she won a case for the state’s most hated fish, the Asian carp. The U.S. Supreme Court shot down a suit to force Illinois to close the locks at the O’Brien Dam and in the Chicago River. Michigan’s attorney general argued that sealing the locks is the only way to prevent the carp from invading the lake, and ruining a $7 billion fishery industry.
“Michigan’s renewed motion seeking closure of the locks failed to recognize the extensive work that the state of Illinois is doing to protect the Great Lakes,” said Madigan’s spokeswoman, Robyn Ziegler.
That includes building a $78.5 million electronic fence in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to zap carp who get close to the lake.
Earlier this month, Mayor Daley wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal, arguing, as Mayor Daley always argues, that it ain’t just Chicago’s fault the Asian carp are sneaking into the lake.
“Considering the history of the Asian carp in the U.S., no one should accept the notion that the governments and their citizens who happen to reside closest to Lake Michigan should be forced to assume all the responsibility for this problem, or take on the environmental and economic costs associated with solving it,” Daley said.
The ship canal has been in place for nearly a century, Daley argued. It brings barges to Chicago. We use it to flush away our stormwater and our sewage. We can’t just suddenly shut it down!
The back story here is that the other Great Lakes states have always hated the ship canal. When it was opened, in the 1920s, the canal sucked up so much water that lake levels dropped from Chicago to Mackinaw City, leaving piers and marinas high and dry. Wisconsin sued to put a cork in it. The Supreme Court refused to close the canal, but did order Chicago to stop hogging so much water.
Now, Michigan’s attorney general plans to ask the Supreme Court to reopen the 83-year-old “Chicago Diversion” case. He’ll be joined by Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Ontario. That’s a lot of neighbors who don’t like the fact that Chicago’s toilet drain has become a highway for an ugly, ravenous fish. And another job for Attorney General Madigan, who'll again have defend Illinois' unusual -- and much-resented -- relationship with Lake Michigan.