U.S. Supreme Court rejects AGs' case to close Chicago-area locks

Chris Rizo Jan. 19, 2010, 12:35pm

Mike Cox (R-Mich.)

U.S. Supreme Court building

Lisa Madigan (D-Ill.)

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox's emergency effort to force the closure of some Chicago locks to prevent the massive Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.

Cox, a Republican, had asked the nation's highest court to issue a preliminary injunction to close the locks in order to keep the invasive carp, which can weigh hundreds of pounds, from migrating into the Great Lakes, where he said the species could decimate the regional fishing economy.

"I am extremely disappointed the Supreme Court did not push the pause button on this crisis until an effective plan is in place," Cox said in a statement.

His effort was backed by the state attorneys general from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and the Canadian province of Ontario.

The justices rejected the multistate arguments for an emergency injunction in a one-sentence order today. The high court will rule later on the merits of the case.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, was opposed to the closing the locks, arguing that doing so could harm the Chicago-area economy without guaranteeing that the carp would not reach the Great Lakes.

The White House too opposed closing the locks, saying in court papers that the move would disrupt commerce and endanger public safety since the closures would disrupt the U.S. Coast Guard activities in the area.

"In a host of ways, the federal government has demonstrated its commitment to protecting the Great Lakes from the expansion of Asian carp," U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who represents the Obama administration before the high court, said in a brief filed last week. "Nothing in federal law warrants second-guessing its expert judgment that the best information available today does not yet justify the dramatic steps Michigan demands."

For many years, the invasive bighead and silver carp have been migrating northward in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, biologists say.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Tuesday that she and Great Lakes governors will ask for a meeting with President Barack Obama.

"We are asking for an immediate summit at the White House with the administration to shut down these locks, at least temporarily, until a permanent solution can be found," she said.

In seeking the preliminary injunction to close the locks, Cox reopened a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case over the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the threats plaintiffs say it poses to the Great Lakes.

Last month, Cox sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the locks; the state of Illinois, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago asking that they take immediate action against the invasive carp species.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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