Legal Battle Over Asian Carp in the Great Lakes Heats Up

The White House responds to calls for a Great Lakes summit to protect the lakes and their $7 billion sportfishing industry from the invasive species.

Asian Carp

Photo Copyright Jason Lindsey

Last week’s U.S. Supreme Court rejection of Michigan’s request to immediately sever the connections between the Illinois River and Lake Michigan continues to reverberate, from the White House to the U.S. Congress and across the border in Ontario.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox sought the request as part of a larger effort to permanently cut off the carp-infested Illinois River from the Great Lakes and protect the lakes’ $7 billion sportfishing industry from irreparable harm. Asian carp, which can grow to 100 pounds and four feet long, have displaced native fish along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The carp were imported decades ago for use in Southern states to clean the ponds of catfish farmers, but subsequently escaped into the Mississippi and began migrating north.

Since Cox filed his suit, the states of Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, along with Ontario, Canada, have announced their support to seal off the Great Lakes from the invasive species. Illinois opposes the effort, as does the American Waterways Operators, a national trade association representing the U.S. tugboat, towboat and barge industry. Because the Chicago-area canals are used to transport millions of dollars worth of goods and commodities each year, the trade organization warns that closing them could increase transportation prices and cost hundreds of people in the barge transportation industry their jobs.

Immediately after the Supreme Court decision, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle called for a summit with White House officials to discuss the brewing controversy. The Obama administration, which initially sided with Illinois, responded positively to the call for an Asian carp summit Wednesday, ABC News reported. The White House Council on Environmental Quality has proposed holding a meeting the first week of February with governors from the Great Lakes states.

Also on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) brought the fight to Congress when he submitted a bill dubbed the CARP ACT — Close All Routes and Prevent Asian Carp Today — which directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take action to prevent the entry of the fish into the Great Lakes. The bill calls for immediate closure of two Chicago-area locks until a controlled lock operations strategy is developed, installation of interim barriers in several Chicago-area channels into Lake Michigan, and enhancement of existing barriers and monitoring systems.

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) joined Camp’s effort Friday, introducing the legislation in the U.S. Senate. That same day, all 17 Michigan members of Congress called for federal agencies to give them a comprehensive plan on how to keep Asian carp from taking over the Great Lakes by the first week of February. The call came in a joint letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard and Fish and Wildlife Service.

Across the U.S.-Canada border, Ontario’s attorney general filed a U.S. Supreme Court motion Thursday in support of Cox’s lawsuit, News reported. Ontario is the only Canadian province that borders the Great Lakes.

Ontario Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield told News that an Asian carp invasion would devastate the fishing industry on Ontario’s Lake Erie shore — home to one of the world’s largest freshwater commercial perch and bass fisheries.

“It’s a huge impact in terms of the billions of dollars for Ontario,” Cansfield said, estimating that sportfishing alone is worth about $1 billion to the province. “You’re talking the drinking water and the source of recreation. We want to protect our water too. We’re going to support the efforts of the states that are involved.”

Sources: ABC News, Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, News, U.S. Rep. Dave Camp

Asian Carp Coverage & Videos

4 replies
  1. Don Mitchel says:

    This Administration ran on a platform to go green, but they seem to have a policy of only worrying about water restoration, not prevention of problems such as ballast water. Other than the commander and chiefs purposed two decade plan, drawn up by the Coast Guard that mirrors an international organization of foreign sea captains, foreign countries, and foreign companies who have a terrible track record, we have nothing. To address the polluted water trail and carbon footprint of international shipping moving fossil fuels and consumer goods, the president would need to be bi-partisan. Addressing ballast water may help prevent eggs and baby Asian carp from spreading into the Great Lakes through the ballast tanks of barges. The president may not have had to address the problem of closing a canal. This would cause economic problems in his home state, which are minimal compared to the economic and permanent damage he is willing to risk for the rest of the country. Because network media dose not make an issue of this problem and will continue to pretend, by silence, regardless of what happens, that our president is not responsible, it is quite easy for this president to continue to only talk about preventing the dirty carbon emission in manufacturing as that can they can be associated with the partisan issue of oil. The change that we needed in 2008 to fix this problem, was started and passed (395-7) by the house of representatives and has since been ignored by the Senate and this administration, Americans that care about our water should make sure that this administrations inaction on preventing the continued destruction of our water as the economy begins to recover and grow through the continued and growing importation of foreign goods is forever remembered as a missed opportunity to protect our country because of short term economics. If terrorist use this venue to attack us we should never allow it to be said “who knew” as we did in 2001. Dose anyone think that the reason network TV dose not address these problems could be associated with the sponsors? cruise ships, Walmart, oil companies, Etc.?

  2. Gary Olson says:

    Everyone keeps forgetting that not only will it harm the $7 billion fishing industry, it will do harm to the $16 billion recreational boating industry. 30% of the registered boats in the US are on the Great Lakes.

    Hundreds in the barge industry doesn’t compare to the 244,000 people that have jobs due mainly to the rec boating industry.

  3. Peter Maier says:

    Even tough we are witnessing dead zones and red tides all over the world, nobody should be surprised that when you stimulate algae growth and low dissolved oxygen levels in open waters, you first do get more carp.
    Due to an worldwide incorrect application of an essential water pollution test, developed around 1920 in England, most countries ignored the nitrogenous (urine and protein) waste in sewage, while this waste, besides exerting an oxygen demand, just like fecal waste, also, in all its forms, is a fertilizer for algae and thus contributes to the eutrophication of water bodies, first stimulating the growth of carp and often later in this process, resulting in dead zones.
    Even tough the US EPA in 1984 acknowledged the problems this caused, it never corrected the test and without correct test data, we still do not know how sewage is treated and what effluent waste loadings are on receiving water bodies. (
    Still it seems impossible to correct this essential test and apply those existing sewage treatment technologies that also treat the nitrogenous waste. In a 1987 High Country News article, EPA of the record tells a water attorney that the test and regulations should be corrected, but that this is also impossible as it would require a re-education and re-tooling of an entire industry, which is happy with the status quo, as they can not be held accountable. Even less animus to make such correction as sewage treatment also would become less expensive, thus less profitable.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply