Schuette plans to continue Asian carp legal fight

LANSING (AP) -- Michigan's new attorney general said last Thursday he will continue the state's court fight to close off waterways into the Great Lakes to keep out invasive Asian carp.

Michigan is one of five states that have sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to force the closing of two shipping locks and several gates in waterways near Chicago that could provide a path for the Asian carp to reach Lake Michigan.

Barge operators and businesses that rely on cargo shipping in the Chicago area have opposed the closures.

The U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. District Judge Robert Dow denied requests last year to close the locks immediately, but the lawsuit is going forward.

Republican Bill Schuette said he will continue lawsuit started by former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who was also a Republican.

"The Asian carp poses a clear and present danger to the ecosystem of the Great Lakes," said Schuette, who took over as attorney general on Jan. 1.

Asian carp have been migrating north in the Mississippi River and its tributaries for decades after escaping from Southern fish farms and sewage lagoons.

The carp are voracious eaters of plankton -- tiny plants and animals at the base of the aquatic food chain. Biologists say if the carp make it to the Great Lakes, they could starve out competitors and threaten the $7 billion sport and commercial fishing industry.

Federal officials contend an electric barrier about 25 miles south of Lake Michigan has adequately thwarted the carp's advance. But researchers say they have detected Asian carp DNA in water samples taken from Chicago-area rivers and canals past the barrier.

The Obama administration is pursuing a broad strategy for dealing with the carp. It calls for spending $47 million this year for improving technology to determine the carp's presence, monitoring the effectiveness of the electronic barrier system and researching better ways to catch and kill carp and prevent them from breeding.

The plan also would continue a study of whether to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds, which are linked by a man-made canal system in the Chicago area.

The lawsuit calls for separation, which Schuette supports.

"The long-term solution on this is physical separation," Schuette said. "It's an ecological barrier, a permanent barrier of some sort."

Published: Mon, Jan 17, 2011