Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox has just filed a renewed motion with the U.S. Supreme Court for a preliminary injunction to close Chicago-area locks to keep Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. The Supreme Court previously denied Michigan’s motion for a preliminary injunction. However, Michigan relies on new information regarding eDNA tests showing evidence of Asian carp in Lake Michigan, which the federal government failed to disclose to the Supreme Court until after the Court ruled against Michigan. Michigan also relies on a new study detailing the relatively minimal economic effects of closing the locks to separate the Mississippi River basin from the Great Lakes basin.
The study, titled “Chicago Waterway System Ecological Separation: The Logistics and Transportation Related Cost Impact of Waterway Barriers” was prepared by Dr. John C. Taylor and James L. Roach. Dr. Taylor is an Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management at Wayne State University and widely respected expert on the logistics of intermodal transportation (the full study and qualifications of Dr. Taylor are included in the Appendix to Michigan’s Renewed Motion for Preliminary Injunction). The study concludes that Illinois’ claim that “even a temporary closure of the locks will devastate the local economy” cannot be supported. It details how statistics submitted to the Court by Illinois and the federal government claiming the potential economic costs of lock closure to be $190 million are “seriously exaggerated” and would only amount to less than $70 million (compared to the billions of dollars at stake if Asian carp enter the Great Lakes). The study further notes that cargo though the O'Brien Lock is already down 45% in recent years, as canal barge traffic has diminished in its economic importance to the region. And in response to Illinois’ claims that closing the locks would increase truck traffic (with resulting environmental impacts), the study determined that truck traffic would only increase by 0.1%.
The tough question is whether this new information about eDNA evidence of Asian carp in Lake Michigan and the minimal economic impact of closing the locks will persuade the Supreme Court, given the federal government’s previous support of Illinois. The additional filings by Michigan may also persuade the Court to reopen the underlying Wisconsin v. Illinois case (response briefs are due on February 19). Either way, Attorney General Cox should be commended for using the best available scientific and economic information to persuade the Court to protect the Great Lakes. Michigan has the law, science, and economics on its side, along with almost every other Great Lakes state and the province of Ontario. Illinois has the backing of the Obama administration and federal government, at least for now. But that could change with new information and increased public outcry. Stay tuned.