The Supreme Court has denied a request for a preliminary injunction that would have forced emergency measures to keep the invading Asian carp out of Lake Michigan, even as Asian carp DNA was found for the first time in Lake Michigan.
The DNA evidence was found in Calumet Harbor, a large breakwater-protected area in the open water of Lake Michigan, and is the first indication of the Asian carp's presence in the lake.
In the wake of the ruling, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm called for an immediate summit at the White House with President Obama and the eight Great Lakes governors to address the Asian carp threat, a move supported by the Alliance and other Great Lakes conservation groups.
Known to batter boaters and even knock them into the water at the sound of a passing motor, Asian carp are voracious filter feeders that can grow to more than 4 feet long, weigh up to 100 pounds and quickly dominate a body of water by gobbling up the same food that sustains native fish populations.
Already, Asian carp DNA had been found in several locations along different branches of the Chicago Waterway System, most recently in the North Shore Channel near the Lake Michigan shoreline. The body of a single Asian carp was found about 20 miles south of the lake in December.
Gen. John Peabody of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said at the press conference that the DNA evidence serves as "an early warning sign" about where Asian carp may be present in the waters. The samples don't indicate the number of fish in the water, their gender, or whether the fish were alive or dead.
More than 700 water samples have been processed to date, and another 440 samples are waiting to be processed -- the majority of them taken lakeward of an electrical barrier located some 20 miles south of Lake Michigan that is meant to repel Asian carp already established in the Illinois River.
Built to divert Chicago's wastewater away from Lake Michigan and into the Illinois River, the complex system of rivers and canals creates an aquatic superhighway for the jumbo-sized Asian carp and other invasive species to travel between the Lake Michigan and Mississippi watersheds, and has now led the potentially devastating fish to the doorstep of Lake Michigan.
The lawsuit, filed by the state of Michigan, called on the Supreme Court to temporarily seal off two Chicago-area locks and waterways leading into Lake Michigan and to require new barriers to prevent the fish's movement into the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal via the floodwaters of nearby rivers.
In a second, as yet unanswered request, Michigan seeks to have the court reopen a longstanding case in which the court ultimately upheld the Chicago diversion despite the protests of the other Great Lakes states.
The states of Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have all filed briefs supporting one or both of the Michigan lawsuits, and the Canadian province of Ontario filed a friend of the court brief.
Named in the case are the state of Illinois, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
The Obama administration has sided with the state of Illinois and Chicago’s Metropolitan Water Reclamation District – which operates the Chicago diversion – in opposing the lawsuit.
The Alliance last year issued a report calling for physically separating the Mississippi and Great Lakes basins, an idea that is gaining traction as the only permanent solution for keeping Asian carp and future invasive species from traveling between the two watersheds.
Joint statement on Supreme Court ruling>>
Fact sheet on Ecological Separation >>