Thursday, December 3, 2009

Michigan & Groups Call For Asian Carp Legal Action

Dec 2: Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Lt. Governor John Cherry urged Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox to vigorously pursue every legal means to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. In a letter delivered to Cox, Granholm and Cherry said, "The Great Lakes' ecosystem is at risk and because of the importance of the Great Lakes to Michigan's economy, we urge you to vigorously pursue every legal tool at your disposal as Michigan's attorney general to prevent the ecological disaster that will occur if Asian carp are allowed into the Great Lakes. Michigan's $4.5 billion sport and commercial fishery is in jeopardy."

The letter continued, "We believe that emergency action to close the Chicago Sanitary Shipping Canal locks, and ultimately, the permanent biological and/or hydrological separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi system via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal must be fully explored and appropriate legal action pursued as quickly as possible."

According to a release from the Governor, Lt. Governor Cherry recently wrote the Undersecretary of the Army to urge additional actions to protect the Great Lakes, including the completion of the second portion of the new barrier, full utilization of the existing barrier now operating at minimal levels, creating a physical barrier to block carp from entering via other waterways during flooding, and using all existing congressional authorities to block the carp's entry.

Attorney General Cox also issued a release saying, that his office has contacted authorities responsible for overseeing Illinois waterways infested with Asian Carp and demanded a full explanation of their immediate plans to protect the Great Lakes from this looming threat. Cox said, "With Asian Carp literally at the front door of the Great Lakes, we will not get another chance to protect our greatest natural resource. The Great Lakes are a vital part of our economy, our way of life, and our future. They are an essential part of turning Michigan around. Allowing the lakes to be decimated when authorities knew of the danger for years would be a colossal failure."

Cox said that his office in recent weeks has been reviewing its legal options to force authorities responsible for the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal to take more aggressive action to stop the Carp from entering Lake Michigan at Chicago. He said he sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Illinois, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago demanding that they take action in the immediate and long term, including, potentially, the closing of the locks to ensure the Carp never enter the Great Lakes. In the letter, Cox indicated that he is prepared to take whatever legal action is necessary to protect the Great Lakes. On December 1, the State of Illinois announced that A task force of Federal, regional state and local agencies had developed a Rapid Response Plan to address Asian Carp threat to the Great Lakes [See WIMS 12/2/09].

Cox also sent a letter to Governor Granholm requesting additional information about the effect closing the locks would have on Michigan's faltering economy and about the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' cooperation with the state of Illinois in efforts to eliminate the Carp [See WIMS 12/1/09].

Conservation groups, including Alliance for the Great Lakes, Great Lakes United, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, and National Wildlife Federation; in a separate letter to Attorney General Cox, said, "We support Governor Granholm's request that you take legal action to close, at least temporarily, all Illinois locks providing access to Lake Michigan until the state of Illinois and federal agencies can demonstrate that Asian carp will not swim into Lake Michigan."

Additionally, Henry Henderson, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Midwest Program (and a former Commissioner of the Environment for the City of Chicago) said, “We support the call from Governor Granholm of Michigan to re-open the U.S. Supreme Court’s review of threats posed by the Chicago Diversion to the well-being of the Great Lakes ecosystem. The other Great Lakes states should join Michigan in pursuing all available legal steps to permanently separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River watershed. There are legitimate shipping and business concerns about the impact that this would have on barge traffic. You would hope that these would be short delays -- but frankly the interests of the multi-billion dollar fishing industry and the quality of 1/5 of the world’s fresh water should really take precedence.”

Access a release from the Governor (
click here). Access a release from AG Cox (click here). Access a release from the interest groups (click here). Access a release from NRDC with links to additional information (click here). Access the Asian Carp Management website for extensive information (click here). Access the Great Lakes United website to track the Asian Carp emergency situation (click here).