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March 17, 2011


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The simple fact is that the pathway of greatest concern (it is admittedly not the only pathway of concern) between the greater Mississippi river system and the Great Lakes is the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. That canal is operated as a federal property, under the direct control of the USEPA, the US Coast Guard, and the Army Corps of Engineers.

And all three of those federal executive branch agencies are under the direct control of the President of the Untied States. President Barack Obama it is, at this time.

I cannot imagine, if the current occupant of the White House were named George W. Bush, that Mr. Lessenberry would not be personalizing this battle. It is actually laughable, that in a half-dozen Detroit Free Press editorials on this topic, it is nearly impossible to find the name "Obama" mentioned anywhere.

And speaking of fish, any mention of the U. S. Supreme Court in this regard is a red herring. The legal case seeking an injuction to close the Chaicago canal, filed by all of the Republican attorneys general in the surrounding Great Lakes states with help from none of the Democrat administrations in any of those states, is still pending. There was an early attempt, at a long-shot legal strategy to reopen a 100 year-old supervisory decision, in order to get a fast federal court ruling to close the Chicago canal. It didn't work, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied request for injunctive relief, but not for lack of effort on the part of the Great Lakes Republicans. The U.S. Supreme Court merely said that it didn't have any basis to rule without a full hearing and/or a trial in the federal District Court.

And oh by the way, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Solicitor General's office under President Obama's direction did not weigh in on the side of Lakes preservation; the Obama Administration actively argued against closing the Chicago canal.

In any event, it is really roundabout Constitutionalism, to be looking to the Supreme Court to tell the Executive branch how best to operate the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers. President Obama could close the canal, like yesterday, if he so chose. He possesses that Executive power, far more clearly than he possessed the dubious power to suspend all deep water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon accident. Unlike the deepwater drilling sites, the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal is actually under President Obama's direct supervision and control. He could close the canal with a stroke of his pen, and the only plausible reason to understand why he hasn't so far is to look at the local political influence-peddling in Chicago.

And let it not go unsaid; the President's homey, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, is also playing this situation like the political master he is. Durbin solemnly talks about what a serious problem this is, and how there is an urgent need -- a need, that is, to fund an expensive, long-term federal study of the problem. (Mr. Lessenberry mentions the study.) Thereby taking the heat off of a fellow Democrat and President from the South Side of Chicago, and allowing the shipping operators to buy more time for business as usual. All the while, creating some more federal patronage "study" jobs in Durbin's home state.

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