By JOHN FLESHER
AP Environmental Writer
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday not to get
involved in a dispute over how to prevent invasive Asian carp from making
their way into the Great Lakes.
The justices turned down a new request from Michigan to consider ordering
closure of Chicago-area shipping locks to prevent the fish from threatening
the Great Lakes. The locks could provide a pathway to Lake Michigan for the
The court had previously declined twice to order the locks closed on an
emergency basis while it considered whether to hear the case. This time, the
court rejected a proposal by Michigan and six other states to use a
long-standing case involving water diversion from Lake Michigan as a vehicle
for seeking to permanently sever a man-made linkage between the Great Lakes
and the Mississippi River basin.
Michigan has led the legal fight to close the locks, arguing that the
ravenous carp, weighing up to 100 pounds, could decimate the lakes’ $7
billion fishing industry by starving out competitors such as salmon and
Mike Cox, the state’s attorney general and a Republican candidate for
governor, said responsibility for blocking the carp’s advance now lies with
President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders. The Obama
administration sided with Illinois in opposing closure of the locks.
“While President Obama has turned a blind eye to the millions of Great Lakes
residents who do not happen to live in his home state of Illinois, it is now
up to him to save thousands of Michigan jobs and our environment,” Cox said.
The justices gave no explanation for their decision. The two-sentence order
denied both Michigan’s request to reopen the diversion case or, as a
fallback, let the state file a lawsuit raising the same issues.
Although the high court refused to accept a new lawsuit, Michigan could file
one in federal district court, said Nick Schroeck, executive director of the
Great Lakes Environmental Law Center in Detroit. But doing so would take
months, and “meanwhile, the carp are knocking at the door,” he said.
Bighead and silver carp were among Asian varieties brought to the southern
United States in the early 1970s. Government officials and private
aquaculturists thought the newcomers could gobble up unwanted algae at
sewage treatment plants and fish farms.
But the carp escaped into the Mississippi and have been migrating northward
ever since. They have infested sections of the Illinois River and have
reached an electronic barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, about
25 miles from Lake Michigan.
A team of biologists says it has detected DNA from the carp past the barrier
— and even within Lake Michigan itself. But no actual carp have been found
between the barrier and the lake, despite an intensive search.
The sanitary and ship canal was built a century ago as engineers reversed
the flow of the Chicago River to send water from Lake Michigan southward
toward the Mississippi. It created an artificial linkup between the Great
Lakes and Mississippi watersheds that has provided a pathway for invasive