AG seeks injunction to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to order emergency injunctive relief to protect the Great Lakes from the potential invasion of Asian carp.

"Lake Superior is an important environmental and economic asset to the state of Minnesota," Swanson said in a brief filed Monday. "Asian carp -- which reproduce rapidly and consume huge amounts of food -- threaten the Great Lakes ecosystem. Emergency action must be taken to prevent the introduction of Asian carp into the Great Lakes."

Officials have become increasingly concerned about the threatened entry of Asian carp into the Great Lakes through Lake Michigan.

In November, DNA testing by the Army Corps of Engineers found that Asian carp have likely passed electronic barriers installed on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal near Chicago to prevent entry of invasive species like Asian carp into Lake Michigan and that the carp may be within six miles of Lake Michigan.

On Dec. 21, the state of Michigan asked the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately order federal, state and local officials responsible for Chicago-area locks and waterways to take measures to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.

Swanson's brief supports the relief sought by Michigan, which includes:

  • Closure of certain Chicago-area locks connecting certain Illinois waterways directly to Lake Michigan.
  • Operation of certain Chicago-area pumping gates in a way that will prevent the carp from entering Lake Michigan.
  • Creation of new barriers in the Chicago area to prevent carp from entering Lake Michigan through other water sources.
  • Other action to eradicate existing carp and prevent their entry into the Great Lakes, the largest freshwater system in the world.

Minnesota has 140 miles of Lake Superior shoreline. Swanson's brief points out that recreational and commercial fishing on Lake Superior are important to Minnesota's economy.

The attorney general's brief also expresses concern for Minnesota's regular fishing industry if Asian carp advance into inland Minnesota lakes through Lake Superior.

Asian carp, which can weigh more than 100 pounds, pose a threat to native fish species by reducing populations of the native plants they eat. Some Asian carp can jump up to 10 feet out of the water when disturbed by the sounds of watercraft, endangering boaters and water skiers and damaging boats.

Asian carp were brought to the United States by Southern catfish farmers to remove algae from fish ponds. They escaped those ponds during flooding in the 1990s and have since spread aggressively through the country's waterways.

The Supreme Court is expected to consider the matter during a conference Jan. 8.

Pioneer Press
Article Publish Date: 
December 29, 2009