TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court refused on Tuesday to
order the immediate closure of shipping structures near Chicago to contain
the ravenous Asian carp, before authorities said DNA from the invaders had
been found in Lake Michigan for the first time.
rejected Michigan’s request for a preliminary injunction to shut the locks
and gates temporarily while officials and interest groups debate a long-term
strategy. The one-sentence decision included no explanation and didn’t say
whether the justices would consider the case on its merits.
federal officials said two DNA samples taken beyond the final barriers
between Chicago-area waterways and the lake had tested positive for Asian
carp — including one in the lake’s Calumet Harbor. They insisted it was far
from certain that carp have actually reached the lake, however, saying no
live or dead specimens had been spotted there.
confident that despite this new information, we still can and will win this
fight,” Gen. John Peabody of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a
consider DNA testing “an early warning device where Asian carp may be
present,” Peabody said. Agencies will use netting and electrical stunning to
search for live or dead fish while continuing to process hundreds more DNA
samples taken last fall, he said.
Peabody said the
discovery did not change the Army Corps’ view that the locks and gates on
the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and other waterways should remain in
operation. Closing them would be “totally inadequate to the task” of
blocking the carp, he said. “The locks are leaky, and there are alternate
pathways around them.”
No actual carp
have been found north of an electronic fish barrier in the canal. One dead
carp turned up just south of the barrier — more than 25 miles from the lake
— after officials poisoned the canal in December.
Chadderton, an invasive species specialist with The Nature Conservancy and a
member of the scientific team analyzing the DNA, said the positive results
likely mean at least some live Asian carp are in the lake. “What we can’t
tell you is how many,” he said.
probably would be needed to confirm that an established, breeding population
has taken hold, said Charles Wooley, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s
deputy regional director.
Granholm of Michigan and Jim Doyle of Wisconsin requested a meeting between
White House officials and the Great Lakes governors.
“We cannot allow
carp into the Great Lakes. It will destroy our Great Lakes fisheries, the
economy,” Granholm said. “It is urgent.”
administration said it would welcome such a meeting and called defeating
Asian carp “one of our immediate priorities.” It sided with Illinois against
closing the locks, however, telling the court that such action would disrupt
the transport of coal and other commodities on waterways linking Lake
Michigan with the Mississippi River system.
Asian carp have
been migrating up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers toward the Great Lakes
for decades. Scientists fear that if they reach the lakes, they could
disrupt the food chain and endanger the $7 billion fishery. Asian carp can
weigh up to 100 pounds and consume up to 40 percent of their body weight
daily in plankton — the foundation of the Great Lakes food web. Many
scientists say they could starve out other species.
by Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and the Canadian
province of Ontario, asked the Supreme Court to order the locks closed as a
stopgap measure while considering a permanent separation between Lake
Michigan and the Mississippi basin.
measures are not taken to stop the advance of Asian carp, and soon, these
alien invaders will be in Lake Michigan where it will be, by most accounts,
impossible to stop them from spreading to all the Great Lakes and the
numerous inland lakes, rivers, and streams that connect to them,” Michigan
told the court. “Partial measures are no longer an option.”
Illinois and the
Obama administration said the electronic barrier was performing well.
Closing the locks would could cause flooding in addition to economic damage,
the government said. The Illinois Attorney General’s office said it was
pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
But its denial
of the injunction doesn’t necessarily mean the court would rule against
Michigan and its allies if the full case came before the justices, said Noah
Hall, an environmental law professor at Wayne State University.
“It just means
you have to wait to get your day in court,” Hall said. “But the danger is
that by the time the Supreme Court does hear the case, the carp will already
be in Lake Michigan.”
Michigan’s attorney general, said he would press on. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep.
Candice Miller requested a hearing of the House Water Resources Subcommittee
to consider legislation ordering the locks to close.
Waterways Operators, a trade group representing the tug and barge industry,
urged all sides to step out of the courtroom.
“We want to
focus on collaboration and not spending money on lawsuits,” said Lynn Muench,
the group’s vice president.