Federal Judge Dismisses Asian Carp Lawsuit
Monday, a federal judge dismissed the multi-state lawsuit to stop Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.
The lawsuit – filed by five Great Lakes states, including Michigan, and joined by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians – sought to force the Army Corps of Engineers to separate the artificial waterways connecting the Illinois River from the Great Lakes. Asian carp have already decimated the Mississippi and Illinois River fisheries, and the waterways are an open door to the Great Lakes.
U.S. District Judge John Tharp ruled that federal law requires the Des Plaines River shipping channel to remain open (it’s part of the waterway system) and that dams cannot be constructed in federal waterways without congressional approval.
“The Army Corps of Engineers needs to stop dragging its feet on separating the watersheds,” said Erin McDonough, Executive Director of MUCC. “Michigan has tremendous fisheries that support economic growth and outdoor recreation. We need strong, immediate action to protect them.”
Governor Snyder, in his Special Message on Energy and Environment last week, emphasized the need for federal action to create barriers at all potential entry points for Asian carp. Such barriers would not only stop Asian carp, but also other aquatic invasive species that could be transferred between watersheds.
The Stop Invasive Species Act, introduced by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Representative Dave Camp (R-MI), requires the Army Corps of Engineers to complete a plan to stop invasive species moving between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes watersheds by early 2014, but the Corps has said that it will study a “range of options.”
The Great Lakes Commission completed a study earlier this year that estimated the cost of a barrier system to be between $3 billion and $9 billion, but that hardly compares to the $7 billion annual sport-fishery that would be jeopardized if Asian carp establish themselves in the Great Lakes.
The states originally filed the lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court after Asian carp eDNA was found on the Great Lakes side of an electric barrier in the Chicago Area Waterway System, but in 2010 the Court decided it would not hear the case. The states then filed in federal District Court.
Judge Tharp’s ruling did leave the door open for the states to file an amended complaint, but meanwhile the door remains open for Asian carp to enter the Great Lakes, too.