Environment & Science
1:53 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

Federal judge dismisses asian carp suit, leaves room for further court action

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by five Great Lakes states that would force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to erect physical barriers to prevent Asian Carp from entering Lake Michigan.

The suit claims that the Corps unwillingness to separate Chicago-area rivers and canals from the lake constitutes a public nuisance.

The AP has more:

U.S. District Judge John Tharp said he couldn't order the agencies to do what the states want because federal law requires the corps to keep shipping channels open between Lake Michigan and one of the Chicago waterways — the Des Plaines River — and prohibits constructing dams in any navigable waterway without Congress' consent.

In a written ruling, Tharp said he was "mindful of, and alarmed by, the potentially devastating ecological, environmental, and economic consequences that may result from the establishment of an Asian carp population in the Great Lakes." But he said the proper way for the states to win approval of separating the waterways is through Congress.

Tharp left the door open for further court action, however, saying the states might be able to find other grounds for a nuisance claim that wouldn't have the effect of asking the corps and city agency to violate federal law.

"There may be room in which the (states) can still maneuver," he wrote.

Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, said his office had not decided on its next step.

"We're certainly disappointed," Yearout said. "We're reviewing the ruling and we will consult with the other states on how to move forward."

Asian carp were brought to the U.S. in the 1970s, and eventually escaped from southern fish farms and research ponds.

They have made their way north, and now scientists, environmental groups, and many Great Lakes politicians are saying that the invasive species could do serious damage to the region’s $7 billion fishing industry.

Earlier this year, Michigan Radio’s Rebecca Williams did extensive coverage on the fish and its potential effects.

Check out her feature: Asian Carp & the Great Lakes.

- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom