Today’s score: Carp 2, Great Lakes 0

I returned from China today after an amazing trip (more about that in a later post), and arrive to find that Asian carp continue to beat up the Great Lakes.

Today’s news is a double whammy: the Supreme Court denied Michigan’s request for an emergency closure of the locks, and the Army Corps of Engineers released new eDNA data suggesting that the monster carp are already in Lake Michigan. We’re all trying to sort through this now.

In the meantime, below is today’s news release from the environmental organizations trying to stop this invasion:

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010

Immediate Action Critical to Stop Carp Invasion
Illinois Diversion Question Still on the Table

The Supreme Court’s ruling today denying Michigan’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have forced emergency measures to keep the invading Asian carp out of Lake Michigan puts the onus for stopping an invasion squarely on the federal government, which had strongly resisted Michigan’s request.

At the same time, the nation’s highest court did not yet act on Michigan’s request to reopen a nearly century-old case allowing Chicago to divert its wastewater from Lake Michigan to the Illinois River. The court provided no comment in its ruling.

The ruling comes as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is poised to announce at a 1:30 p.m. (CST) press conference the discovery of Asian carp in Lake Michigan, according to press accounts.

The artificial connection in Illinois 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.


“Unlike the court, Asian carp don’t heed jurisdictional lines,” said Alliance President Joel Brammeier. “If emergency measures to stem the tide of carp are the wrong play, we need a new playbook — and we need it yesterday. Without that, there’s no time to build the permanent separation the Great Lakes and Mississippi need.”

Jennifer Nalbone, director of invasive species and navigation for Great Lakes United, said: “If DNA evidence is good enough to put criminals in jail, DNA evidence should have been good enough for the Supreme Court to close those locks and separate the two basins.”

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.

The Great Lakes states of Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all filed briefs supporting one or both of the Michigan lawsuits, and the Canadian province of Ontario filed a friend of the court brief. All the parties warn that the Chicago connection threatens the health of the five Great Lakes and the local economies dependent upon them.

The Obama administration sided with the state of Illinois and Chicago’s Metropolitan Water Reclamation District – which operates the Chicago diversion – in opposing the lawsuit.

“Illinois cannot breath too big a sigh of relief, as the Supreme Court could take further action on Michigan’s case,” said Henry Henderson, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Midwest Program and the first Commissioner of the Environment for the City of Chicago.

Henderson said the new DNA findings reinforce Michigan’s assertion that the Chicago Diversion threatens the health of the Great Lakes. “Whether they are forced by the Supreme Court or not, Illinois’ elected officials need to follow up on their statements in recent weeks and take leadership in finding timely solutions to this problem,” he said.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm today called for an immediate summit at the White House with President Obama and the eight Great Lakes governors to address the Asian carp threat.

Marc Smith, state policy manager with National Wildlife Federation, said “The Court’s decision today heightens the urgent need for a White House summit to speed up efforts to protect the Great Lakes. Every day they delay, the carp swim closer to Lake Michigan, jeopardizing the health of all the Great Lakes and the regional economy.”

Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters®-Great Lakes Coalition, said:
“As we keep waiting for an alternative plan that will keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, they keep getting closer to Lake Michigan.  If Illinois and the U.S. Army Corps don’t want to temporarily close the locks, then they need to tell the country what steps they will take, including the preparation for permanent separation of these watersheds.”

“State and federal agencies keep saying they understand the problem,” Skelding added. “Talking about the urgency comes cheap.  We can’t wait another two months let alone another two minutes to know how one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water will be protected from these monsters.”

Contacts:

Joel Brammeier, President and CEO, Alliance for the Great Lakes:  773-590-6494 (cell); 312- 939-0838 x224 (office); email: JBrammeier@greatlakes.org

Jennifer Nalbone, Campaign Director, Invasive Species and Navigation, Great Lakes United, phone: 716 213-0408; email: jen@glu.org

Jeff Skelding, Campaign Director, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition®, 410-245-8021 (cell); email: jskelding@nwf.org

Marc Smith, Great Lakes State Policy Manager, National Wildlife Federation, 734-887-7116; email: MSmith@nwf.org

Josh Mogerman, Natural Resources Defense Council, 312-651-7909; e-mail: jmogerman@nrdc.org

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