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Asian carp caught near Lake Michigan: 'Carp wars' just got hotter

An Asian carp caught in Lake Calumet this week is the first such live fish to be found in such close proximity to Lake Michigan. Worries mount that the species will invade, and ruin, the Great Lakes.

By Staff writer / June 24, 2010

A fisheries biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources holds an Asian carp caught in Lake Calumet Wednesday.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources/Reuters



The discovery of a 19-pound Asian carp in a lake outside Chicago is the most dramatic evidence yet that the voracious, invasive species is swimming past an electric "fence" and heading for Lake Michigan.

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The carp, reportedly caught by commercial fishermen on Tuesday, is likely to intensify the "carp wars" that have been raging for most of this year between Illinois and other Great Lakes states over what should be done – and how soon – to stop the fish from reaching Lake Michigan. The one found this week in Lake Calumet is about six miles away, according to an Associated Press report.

In December, six Great Lakes states, led by Michigan, sued Illinois to force the closure of two Chicago-area navigational locks to prevent access of the fish into Lake Michigan. State leaders and environmentalists are concerned that if the fish make their way into Lake Michigan, they will destroy the ecosystem there and, eventually, ruin the $7 billion-a-year recreational fishing and tourism industries.

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The US Supreme Court this year has refused three petitions to close the locks. In February, President Obama committed $475 million to research solutions and to build an additional electric barrier.

Critics say that framework lacks urgency and does not call for immediate closure of the O’Brien Lock and Dam in the Calumet-Sag Channel and the Chicago Controlling Works in the Illinois River – two potential entry points into Lake Michigan for Asian carp that have been migrating upstream from the Mississippi River for decades.

The federal plan, supported by Illinois lawmakers and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, notes that closing the locks would harm the barge industry. About 14.6 million tons of the Chicago region’s petroleum, coal, road shale, cement, and iron travel through the locks. Business through the shipping channels is worth $30 million a year, according to the American Waterways Operators (AWO), a trade association representing the tugboat, towboat, and barge industry.