A River Runs Through Them - NBC Chicago
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A River Runs Through Them



    A River Runs Through Them
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    In the most compelling Illinois race this cycle, Mark and Alexi Giannoulias look like they'll battle it out for President Obama's old senate seat.

    Alexi Giannoulias must be reading Ward Room.

    On June 4, this blog came out in favor of re-reversing the Chicago River, returning it to its natural course, so it flows into Lake Michigan. The river was rerouted in 1900 because the million people living along its banks were fouling Lake Michigan with their waste.

    "We lose about 500-million-gallons of purified water because of the way the river flows away from Lake Michigan,” Giannoulias said Monday, in a forum at the Metropolitan Planning Council. “I do think going forward long-term, it's smart to try to re-direct that water, to clean it up first, and re-direct it into Lake Michigan.

    The Chicago River reversal is also considered an engineering marvel and would, as Giannoulias conceded, be enormously expensive to undo.  But Giannoulias thinks it’s the best way to keep Asian carp out of the lake, since it would sever one of Lake Michigan’s connections to the Mississippi River system.  

    It’s an unusual stance for an Illinois politician. Our state is jealous of its unique right to withdraw water from the Great Lakes. This year, Attorney General Lisa Madigan beat back a lawsuit from Michigan and other states that would have forced Chicago to close the locks at the O’Brien Dam and the Chicago River.

    Mark Kirk took the traditional position that allowing the river to flow into Lake Michigan would pollute our drinking water.  Instead of the radical solution of allowing a river to flow downhill, the state should keep Asian carp away from the lake by juicing up the electric barrier in Romeoville.

    "We should not reverse the direction of the Chicago River so that it dumps into the source of our water supply," Kirk said.

    Kirk and Giannoulias also disagreed on a cap-and-trade carbon tax. As a congressman, Kirk voted for legislation that would cap carbon emissions and allow industries to trade pollution credits. Now, he says the state can’t afford it. Kirk has been accused of pandering to the Republican right by making that switch, but he’s really pandering to Southern Illinois. Taxing or limiting carbon emissions would hurt the region’s mining industry, which produces a high-sulfur coal that’s been losing popularity ever since the Clean Air Act was passed. And Southern Illinois is always up for grabs in statewide elections, because it’s socially conservative, but pro-labor.

    Giannoulias told the forum that putting a price on carbon is the best way to reduce pollution and reliance on foreign energy.

    Kirk and Giannoulias did agree on a six-month moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico – a switch for Kirk, who in 2008 endorsed drilling in the gulf because America needed to get at the oil before the Cubans and the Chinese. They also oppose a gasoline tax to pay for mass transit and roads. That may not be environmentally smart, but it’s smart politics in a city where gas is selling for over $3 a gallon.