Monday, February 8, 2010

Mike Cox: Crackpot hippie?

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox has issued an analysis disputing Illinois’ claim that closing Chicago shipping canal locks to keep Asian Carp out of Lake Michigan would unleash economic Armageddon. Read it here:

Five years ago, Grand Valley State University researchers came to a strikingly similar conclusion regarding closing the other end of the Great Lakes to keep ocean-going vessels from spewing invasive species. Read it here:

Cox says keeping the carp out would cost $70 million annually to protect a $7 billion annual sport fishing industry. GVSU said keeping the ocean ships out would cost $55 million to protect the same industry.

In 2005, those who publically called for closing the lakes to ocean ships were deemed crackpot, hippie wackos bent on destroying the economy. Government researchers who spoke out were muzzled and at least one was forced out of a job. No significant politician took up the cause.

But today those calling publically for closing the Chicago shipping locks include a bipartisan roster of lawmakers. Even WJR Radio talk show host Frank Beckmann and the Detroit News editorial board – neither of which had previously seen an environmental issue they didn’t consider a socialist plot to destroy America – are on board.

What’s the difference?

For one, the ugly, creepy, leaping Asian Carp is a visible and tangible villain that has fueled the public’s ire like no other.

Secondly, the leadership of Cox, a Republican and candidate for governor, has made it OK for other Republicans and conservatives to call for closing the Chicago shipping locks.

A cynic would say it is a naked populist ploy to capitalize on public outrage in an election year.

An optimist would say that maybe, just maybe, politicians of all stripes will recognize the power that Great Lakes protection has to mobilize Michigan citizens and voters.


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