MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
NPR's David Schaper laws out the legal side of the story.
DAVID SCHAPER: Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox says that harm now almost here in the form of Asian carp.
MIKE COX: They devour plankton, algae and other material on such a large volume that they have the potential of destroying every Great Lakes fishery, whether it's Lake Michigan, Superior, Erie, Ontario or Huron.
SCHAPER: Cox and others worry that if the Asian carp get through those locks, they will crowd out native species of fish in the Great Lakes, causing an ecological and economic disaster.
COX: Fishing and tourism is a $7 billion industry along the eight lakes - excuse me, the eight states and the two provinces that make up the Great Lakes. And clearly, hundreds of thousands of Michigan jobs are dependent upon fishing and tourism and all that's related to the fact that we are the Great Lakes state.
SCHAPER: But if the Chicago locks are closed, there are many people who make their living here on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, whose livelihoods could be affected. I'm standing on the Mary C. It's a tow boat pushing barges up the canal toward Chicago. Bill Russell is with the company that owns the Mary C, Illinois Marine Towing.
BILL RUSSELL: 16.9 million tons of cargo moves up and down this waterway system into Chicago.
SCHAPER: That cargo is moving 24 hours a day all year round, even on these bitterly cold and blustery days. Russell points to the hulking industries lining the canals that are fed by the barges.
RUSSELL: We're right at the edge of the Citgo Petroleum refinery, one of the users of the waterway. They bring a lot of things in and out of here by barge that they can't move by pipeline. We have salt piles here along the facilities that supply salt to all the cities around Chicago, as well as the city itself. All that salt comes up the river by barge.
SCHAPER: Road salt, petrochemicals, coal, steel, sand, grains and more all move through the Chicago locks. Shipping those materials over land would add more than a million trucks and tens of thousands of rail cars, increasing pollution and congestion. And closing the locks would cost hundreds, if not thousands of jobs, including the 125 at Russell's company.
RUSSELL: Without this river system being open and without the locks, our company would cease to exist because we wouldn't have anything to move if these barges couldn't travel in and out of Chicago.
SCHAPER: David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.
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