CHICAGO, Illinois, January 19, 2010 (ENS) – Asian carp are closing in on Lake Michigan, but today the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by the state of Michigan for a preliminary injunction that would have forced the emergency closure of Chicago-area locks to keep the invaders out of the Great Lakes.

The fear is that the large and voracious carp could consume all the food in the Great Lakes ecosystem, potentially causing the lakes’ lucrative fishing industry to collapse.

The high court issued a one sentence statement, saying only, “The motion of Michigan for preliminary injunction is denied.”

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who brought the case to the Supreme Court, today said he is “extremely disappointed” in the decision. Since filing his suit on December 21, 2009, Cox has been joined by Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and the Canadian province of Ontario.

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.

There are no natural waterways between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watershed, where the invasive carp have proliferated since being introduced in the 1970s.

More a century ago, engineers linked them with a network of manmade canals and existing rivers to reverse the flow of the Chicago River and keep waste from flowing down it to Lake Michigan, where Chicago draws its drinking water.

Cox called on President Barack Obama to now use his powers to close the locks because Asian carp environmental DNA continues to turn up near Lake Michigan.

Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged finding carp DNA less than a mile from Lake Michigan.

The multi-agency Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, RCC, announced that University of Notre Dame scientists have found one positive eDNA result for silver carp in Calumet Harbor half a mile north of the Calumet River and one more at a location in the Calumet River north of O’Brien Lock. These samples were collected on December 8 and recently processed.

Dr. David Lodge, director of the eDNA project at the University of Notre Dame said, “Our current eDNA process provides indications of likely presence, but it does not yet provide information about Asian carp quantity that may be present, age, size, how they got there or how long they may have been there.”

“Clearly this is not good news,” said Major General John Peabody, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Great Lakes and Ohio River Division. “But eDNA technology provides the advanced warning of the possible presence of Asian carp, so that all agencies supporting the RCC can focus their efforts and resources to optimal effect.”

“From what we have seen in other parts of the country, Asian carp could out-compete our native, sport and commercial fish in southern Lake Michigan,” said Charlie Wooley, deputy regional director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We call them an aquatic vacuum cleaner because they filter important food resources out of the water and turn it into carp biomass.”

Michigan Governor 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.

Great Lakes conservation groups issued a joint statement today calling for urgent action to separate the two watersheds, isolating the carp on the Mississippi River side.

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.”

Meanwhile, the Corps and other RCC agencies are considering rapid deployment of electrofishing and specialized netting alternatives in the area near O’Brien Lock to keep a self-sustaining population of Asian carp from forming.

The RCC said its agencies are, “Planning to develop the concept of how existing structures, such as locks, could be operated in a way that would minimize the risk of carp migration while the U.S. Coast Guard, local public safety and emergency responders, needed cargo, and other traffic transits the waterway.”

The RCC said accelerated construction of a new electric fish fence to complement existing barriers is underway, and plans “severance of culverts and other bypass routes in the event of flooding, that might allow carp entry from adjacent waterways” are also underway, with interim obstructions scheduled for completion this year.

The RCC said it will also accelerate development of possible biological controls for Asian carp. In addition, eDNA sampling will continue.

Though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said allowing Asian carp into the Great Lakes would be an “ecological and economic disaster,” Michigan Attorney General Cox says the Obama administration and Illinois officials are fighting his efforts to protect the lakes.

“President Obama said he would not tolerate new threats to the Great Lakes, yet he has left the front door to Lake Michigan wide open,” Cox said. “Billions in economic activity and 800,000 Michigan jobs connected with the health of the Lakes are at risk. His indifference is just stunning.”

“If President Obama continues to favor Illinois at the expense of other states,” Cox said, “Michigan and the other states backing his efforts will need help from Congress.” He praised the bi-partisan efforts of Michigan’s Congressional delegation on the issue.

Cox said that public pressure on President Obama “will play a vital role in changing the Obama administration’s position.” He urged citizens to sign an online petition to protect the Lakes at: www.StopAsianCarp.com.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.