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What's worse for Lake Michigan -- Kalamazoo River spill or Asian carp?

While Chicago Mayor Daley called an oil spill in the Kalamazoo River a bigger threat to Lake Michigan than Asian carp, many scientists disagree. Is the mayor playing politics, or is he on to something?

By Staff Writer / July 30, 2010

Tthis July 28 photo shows what Michigan officials say is a sheen of oil on Morrow Lake in Kalamazoo County. The lake is a key point where officials had hoped to stop oil from a spill into the Kalamazoo River that has coated wildlife with oil.

State of Michigan/AP

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This week’s oil spill in Michigan's Kalamazoo River is a bigger threat to Lake Michigan than invasive and voracious Asian carp, according to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

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Some scientists and environmental groups, however, aren't so sure.

Mayor Daley is facing political pressure from environmental opponents and neighboring states, both of which say city and state barging interests are preventing the closure of two navigational locks that would prevent the Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan through a shipping canal connecting the lake to the Mississippi River.

A pipeline operated by Enbridge, Inc., a Canadian company, ruptured Monday near Marshall, Mich., releasing 819,000 gallons of oil into the river. Only about 10 percent of the oil has been recovered. So far, no reason has been given for the break.

While the leak has been stopped, the oil is currently about 80 miles away from Lake Michigan. If the oil reaches Great Lakes waters, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm warned, it would become a “tragedy of historic proportions.”

But is it really worse than Asian carp, which Great Lakes states worry could destroy their fisheries and wreck havoc on local economies?

Michigan and other Great Lakes states filed several lawsuits against Illinois and various federal agencies, charging that too little is being done to prevent the invasive species from crossing through a canal connecting the Mississippi to Lake Michigan.

The June discovery of a 19-pound Asian carp six miles from Lake Michigan became the most direct evidence that the fish may have found a way to move past the navigational locks meant to keep them from reaching the lake.

The latest lawsuit, filed by Michigan Attorney Mike Cox on July 19, seeks a temporary closure of those locks and the building of more protective measures. Mr. Cox said President Obama’s framework for addressing the program was wrought with “bureaucratic delays.”

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