As early as this Friday, the US Supreme Court could force Illinois to close two locks in order to prevent the Asian carp from spreading to Lake Michigan, reports the Chicago Tribune.
First introduced to clean algae from catfish ponds along the lower Mississippi River in the 1970s, two Asian carp species made their way up to the Illinois River following major floods in the 1990s. To stop them from crossing Chicago-area locks and threatening the $7 billion Great Lakes fishery and ecosystem, state and federal agencies installed an electric barrier along the waterway.
But earlier this fall Lindsay Chadderton of The Nature Conservancy and the University of Notre Dame used a new technique to identify bighead carp DNA beyond the barrier and along the Cal Sag branch of the canal, a finding which set off an intensive netting and poisoning operation and Michigan’s request for a Supreme Court injunction. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and New York have since joined the lawsuit.
Closing the locks could destroy a $1.5 billion shipping economy and threaten the city with floods. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, and the Army Corps of Engineers argue that Asian carp are not as big a problem as some contend. The Obama administration has also sided with Illinois.(AP)
“We think that this issue about Asian carp destroying the ecology and the economy of the Great Lakes is just overblown and just fraught with a lot of emotion,” Water District Executive Director Dick Lanyon told the Chicago Tribune.
While most ecologists would dismiss Lanyon’s sentiment outright, the US EPA contends that Asian carp are a “”http://www.epa.gov/glnpo/invasive/asiancarp/“>significant threat” to the Great Lakes. Nature correspondent Emma Marris has written about Mark Davis of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and other invasive species doubters in the ecology community.
Image: bighead carp courtesy US Geological Survey