Supreme Court denies Michigan's Asian carp injunction request

Michigan had asked the Supreme Court to order Chicago to close two locks to stop the invasive Asian carp from getting to the Great Lakes.

M. Spencer Green/AP
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services workers use gill nets and electrofishing devices to search for Asian carp in the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal on Feb. 17.
Richa Clabaugh/Staff

The Supreme Court has denied Michigan's second request for an injunction ordering Chicago to close two navigational locks in an effort to keep Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.

The high court did not elaborate on its decision Monday, which leaves Michigan and six other states engaged in a continued battle about how to stop an invasion it says threatens $7 billion in Great Lakes recreational fishing and tourism revenue.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox made the request after learning that DNA testing showed Asian carp had already breached the locks and had made it to the shores of Lake Michigan. The discovery was made the same day as the first Supreme Court decision in January denying closure of the locks. In addition to the DNA discovery, Mr. Cox cited research by Wayne State University in Detroit that shows economic losses to the barge and shipping industry, as well as to the surrounding area, would be much lower than Illinois had initially reported.

“Our motion was an extraordinary attempt to protect the Great Lakes, but we felt it was necessary to because the Court deserved to have access to the new DNA and economic information before making a decision,” Cox said in a statement released Monday.

The federal government, the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois, and local shipping interests are against shutting down locks at the O’Brien Lock and Dam in the Calumet-Sag Channel and the Chicago Controlling Works in the Illinois River. They say lock closures are just a temporary solution that would have detrimental effects on the local economy. In February, the Obama administration announced $475 million of funding to work on long-term solutions such as wetlands restoration and building an additional electric barrier.

Robyn Ziegler, press secretary for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said Michigan’s repeated attempts before the Supreme Court demonstrate a failure to recognize the “extensive work” Illinois is doing to address the problem. “Illinois will continue to do everything within its legal authority to stop the progress of Asian carp and protect the ecology and health of the Great Lakes,” she says.

Michigan has a second request pending before the Supreme Court – the so-called “Chicago Diversion” case, which addresses the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, a historic waterway connecting Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. The canal was built to divert water away from the Lake in the early century, which neighboring states and Ontario have said is unlawful.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to review Cox’s request for hearings on April 16.

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