Thursday, January 7, 2010

White House Opposes States' Legal Action To Stop Asian Carp

Jan 6: According to a release from the Michigan Attorney General, late in the day on January 5, the U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing Cox's efforts to protect the Lakes by closing the Chicago-area locks and waterways connecting carp-infested waters with the Lakes. Since filing his suit on December 21, 2009 [See WIMS 1/4/10], Cox has been joined by the states of Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin and the Province of Ontario. The State of Indiana has also expressed support for Michigan's action. Additionally, a number of environmental organizations have also supported the legal action to close the locks. Asian carp are an aggressive invasive species that could quickly devastate Great Lakes fish populations and the hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity which they support.

In his release Cox said he is "extremely disappointed by President Obama's choice to protect the narrow interests of his home state of Illinois while ignoring the pleas of Michigan and at least four other Great Lakes states" which have asked the United States Supreme Court for the immediate closure of Chicago-area waterways containing Asian carp. Cox called on Obama to immediately meet with him, Governor Jennifer Granholm, and others to hear first-hand the concerns Great Lakes states have due to the immediate threat posed by the aggressive invasive species.

Cox said, "I am extremely disappointed that President Obama sided with his home state while ignoring the concerns of the millions of families in Michigan, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota, whose jobs and way of life depends on protecting the Great Lakes from this economic and ecological disaster. I am hopeful, however, that by sitting down with us and listening to our concerns, he will come to recognize the urgency of protecting the jobs and ecology of the entire Great Lakes region."

Interestingly, the Obama Administration's Senior Advisor for Great Lakes issues, Cameron Davis, is the former head of the Alliance for the Great Lakes which also stongly supports the Supreme Court legal action initiated by the Michigan Attorney General. In June of 2009 U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson appointed the long-time Great Lakes advocate Davis to be EPA's Senior Advisor for Great Lakes issues. However, the newly announced Alliance President Joel Brammeier said in a release on December 21, "The Alliance applauds Michigan's move to protect the lakes. Knowing there are carp less than seven miles from Lake Michigan, we have to take every precaution until we know those canals are free from carp and the barrier is not being breached."

So what does EPA's Senior Great Lakes Advisor have to say. The Great Lakes Town Hall (GLTH) recently interviewed Cameron Davis (CD) and published the interview on January 3, 2010, The following is the portion of the interview dealing with the Asian Carp issue.

(GLTH) - After the waters past the electric barrier tested positive for Asian carp DNA, why weren't the locks immediately closed as a precautionary measure until it could be determined if any carp had made it as far as Lake Michigan?

(CD) - Thanks for asking the question because the call for lock closure has been really charged and it's important to have an honest discussion about it. First, the locks are old and leaky. Closing them would provide a false sense of security. But second and more important, the call for lock closure is largely based on eDNA sampling results. We're learning that eDNA is a good early warning system, but it shouldn't be relied on exclusively for making major management decisions. When rotenone (a piscicide) was applied near the Corps of Engineers' electric fences, where lots of Asian carp could have been, we only found one Asian carp. When the Illinois DNR contracted with commercial fishermen -- these people's livelihoods are based on capturing Asian carp among others -- they didn't find a single Asian carp out of hundreds and hundreds of other fish captured. eDNA is a new technology. It's an important color in the palate that helps us paint a picture of what's going out there in a waterway, but it's one color.

(GLTH) - What does the Asian carp emergency teach or tell you about the federal and state response to ecosystem threats, both urgent and especially for the long-term?

(CD) - The agencies have an enormous sense of urgency about keeping carp out of the Great Lakes. The December Rapid Response action to keep carp out of the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal while the Corps of Engineers' electric fence IIA was down was a textbook team effort by local, state, provincial, federal and bi-national agencies that worked. Our goal was to keep carp out of the Great Lakes and in December we won. But that was just one battle. The agencies need to hit the gas on longer term, sustainable solutions.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) which has also supported the states' Supreme Court lawsuit responded to the latest action of Illinois and the Federal government in a blog post saying, "We might be forced to wait 10 years for the Army Corps of Engineers to finish a study on permanent solutions to this mess, but it is inevitable that some sort of barrier will have to be put in place to re-establish the separation that existed between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basin to prevent this dangerous invasive species, and the multitudes of other queued up to follow, from threatening 1/5 of the world’s fresh water. It seems to me that the threat should spur action on its own, but as I’ve noted repeatedly in this slow-motion disaster, the State and Obama administration should seize this moment as the biggest opportunity that this region has seen in a century to fix real problems and begin the real work of improving the environment, economy and commercial transportation infrastructure of the Great Lakes."

Access the release from Michigan AG Cox (
click here). Access the release from the Alliance (click here). Access the complete GLTH interview with Davis (click here). Access the lengthy NRDC blog post (click here).