Chicago locks' closure would cost economy $4.7 billion

Chris Rizo Apr. 9, 2010, 2:33pm

Joseph Schwieterman

Jim Farrell

CHICAGO (Legal Newsline)-Closing a pair of Chicago-area shipping locks to help prevent the invasive Asian carp from migrating further into the Great Lakes could cost the regional economy about $4.7 billion over two decades, a report said.

The economic analysis released this week by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce said the closure of Chicago and O'Brien shipping locks would have an overall devastating effect on the surrounding economy, costing hundreds of jobs.

The locks' closures would result in financial losses from added transportation costs and losses to commercial shipping, recreational boating, commercial cruises and tours and public protection, the study said.

The report was prepared by economist Joseph Schwieterman, director of DePaul University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development in Chicago.

Schwieterman's findings conflict with a recent analysis commissioned by the Michigan attorney general. That report by John Taylor and James Roach estimated the locks' closures would lead to annual losses between $64 million to $69 million n the Chicago-area economy.

The Taylor-Roach report was issued in February as expert witness testimony. The study was sought by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox after U.S. Supreme Court rejected his request to close the locks.

Cox is spearheading the legal effort to close the shipping locks, at least temporarily, while a solution to the massive bighead and silver carp migration is devised. Cox, a Republican gubernatorial hopeful, first sought the locks' closures in December.

The U.S. Supreme Court twice has rejected Cox's requests to order closed the locks that separate the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal from Lake Michigan. Officials have warned that the carp could decimate the Great Lakes' regional commercial and recreational fishing industries.

The executive director of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce's Infrastructure Council, Jim Farrell, said debate over the locks' possible closures "has been fueled by rhetoric from the state of Michigan."

Farrell said the DePaul University study brings "some well-reasoned perspective" to a very contentious debate. He decried the Taylor-Roach report, once touted by Michigan officials, as unscientific and inaccurate, according to independent peer reviews on the research.

"The Schwieterman study shows, through well-reasoned economics, that closing these locks will have a devastating affect on our local economy, resulting in the loss of potentially hundreds of area jobs and hurting a range of industries and services," Farrell said.

Biologists say the Asian carp have infested the Chicago-area rivers and canals that connect Lake Michigan with the Illinois River and the Mississippi River. Asian carp DNA has already been found in Lake Michigan.

For her part, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, has said closing the locks would have harmful economic effects without guaranteeing the carp species will not continue their migration.

The White House, too, is opposed to closing the locks, according to papers filed by U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who represents the Obama administration before the high court.

The state attorneys general from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York have joined Cox's effort to close the locks.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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