Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Boycotts Could Nudge Illinois To Block The Invasive Asian Carp

Well, the intrigue is over: Wisconsin becomes the fourth of eight Great Lakes states to urge US Supreme Court action to force Illinois to close canal connections through which destructive Asian carp could invade Lake Michigan and wreak havoc in the Great Lakes.

Though a brief filed by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. Wisconsin joins Michigan, the lead in this matter, and the states of Ohio and Minnesota.

But will it be enough?

And is legal action the only strategy to get Illinois to give up its parochial protectionism for an antiquated canal through which the carp could get into the Great Lakes?

I'm not sure if the Supreme Court will take any action because it might have to reopen Chicago's long-standing, Court-sanctioned diversion of Lake Michigan water - - though a multi-state action legal attack might, through public pressure and opinion, convince Illinois to take remedial action.

But maybe Illinois needs a stronger push to be a better Great Lakes steward and neighbor.

Remember when the State of Arizona refused to make Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday a holiday?

That led to a national tourist boycott - - which, along with bad publicity, helped the political and business establishment there finally approve the holiday designation.

In fact, it was just a few months ago that Chicago-area motorists were picketing British Petroleum gas stations over Indiana's approval for a permit allowing BP's Whiting, Indiana refinery to expand and add pollutants to Lake Michigan.

A few days of bad PR, and BP backed down and said it would capture those pollutants for on-site treatment instead.

So let's not rule out a good, old-fashioned consumer and tourist boycott aimed at Illinois should the Supreme Court dawdle, or worse, decline to force the canal and locks to close.

The canal is an artificial tributary that connects the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River basin and serves as Chicago's sewerage discharge route.
Yes, it has helped keep sewage out of Lake Michigan but now could be the Great Lakes undoing because it offers the invasive carp an easy and direct route from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan - - endangering a multi-billion dollar commercial fishing and a regional recreational industry.

Right now, Illinois and Chicago seem wedded to the canal for economic reasons and decline to take alternatives seriously.

Maybe closing off the flow of tourist revenue to Illinois businesses and state tax collection coffers will help Illinois officials close off the canal and locks.

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