Wednesday, October 10, 2012

MI AG Continues Legal Action To Stop Asian Carp Advances

Oct 9: Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that his office will continue to move forward with a lawsuit aimed at protecting the Great Lakes from invasive Asian carp. Schuette has joined four states and an Indian tribe in legal action to force the Army Corps of Engineers to quickly develop and implement plans to permanently separate the Great Lakes from Asian carp-infested Illinois waterways.

    Schuette said, "Asian carp are knocking at the front door of the Great Lakes, and we cannot afford to wait on a federal government that fails to act. This ecological disaster has been building and building for years, with no definitive action. We need to permanently separate these two bodies of water as soon as possible. The time for talk is over; Michigan citizens have been patient for long enough, we need results."  
    According to a release, attorneys for the Federal government have argued that a July 2012 law passed by Congress requiring the Corps to complete, by January 2014, a study of options for permanently blocking the movement of Asian carp and other invasive species through the Chicago Area Waterway System makes litigation unnecessary. However, on October 5, 2012, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it does not intend to recommend any separation plan within the deadline set by Congress, and instead plans years of additional study, despite the impending Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes. Four days later, the Corps disclosed 30 new positive test results for Asian carp environmental DNA from samples collected in the Chicago Waterway. There have now been a total of 80 such positive results above the Corps' electrical Barrier system in 2012 alone.   
    On October 9, 2012, Schuette's office filed a response to the supplemental motion to dismiss in Michigan, et al v Corps of Engineers, et al before Judge John J. Tharp, Jr. in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Judge Tharp is expected to determine whether Schuette's lawsuit can proceed later this year. Schuette indicated that the response makes clear that Michigan is continuing forward with its lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers and the Chicago Water District, joined by attorneys general from Minnesota Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. 
    Access a release from the AG (click here). Access more information on the AG's efforts on the Asian Carp issue (click here).
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More Positive Asian Carp eDNA Found Beyond Electric Barrier

Oct 9: The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) announced intensive monitoring action will begin in the North Shore Channel of the Chicago River on October 16, after three consecutive rounds of Environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling yielded positive results for Asian carp DNA in the North Shore Channel beyond the electric barrier. The ACCRC's 2012 Monitoring and Rapid Response Plan calls for a Level 1 response to three consecutive rounds of positive eDNA results in one area. As an extra precaution, the ACRCC also will conduct intensive monitoring in a six-mile stretch of the Chicago River beginning near the Chicago lock, after one set of samples tested positive for eDNA in that area. While the North Shore Channel is regularly monitored for the presence of Asian carp, the level 1 response intensifies efforts with additional commercial fishing crews, agency electrofishing boats, and additional deep water sampling gear during an intensive four-day fishing period.

    John Goss, Asian Carp Director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality said, "While the science still does not tell us whether eDNA is from a live fish, a dead fish, or another source, finding three consecutive sets of positive samples triggers us to use significant resources to determine whether any Asian carp are present. This is part of the ACRCC's comprehensive Asian carp control strategy that includes continuing aggressive monitoring to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, developing cutting edge control technologies, and refining the use of eDNA." Three separate eDNA samples sets were taken at the North Shore Channel between June 11 and September 11, revealing 17 positives for silver carp DNA out of 171 samples. 

    Biologists from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be on the water with contracted commercial fishermen beginning Tuesday October 16th through Friday, October 19th. The crews will lay various net types throughout the North Shore Channel and in channel areas of the Chicago River. Agency electrofishing boats will sample fish in shoreline areas and will be used to drive fish towards the nets. Gears will be attended at all times and commercial and private vessel traffic will be able to proceed with minimal interference. A notice to mariners will be broadcast by the U.S. Coast Guard to further inform any water traffic during this effort, and daily updates will be posted on the ACRCC website.

    At present, eDNA evidence cannot verify whether live Asian carp are present, whether the DNA may have come from a dead fish, or whether water containing Asian carp DNA may have been transported from other sources, such as bilge water. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is leading an Asian Carp eDNA Calibration Study (ECALS) with the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reduce the uncertainty surrounding eDNA results and investigate alternative sources and pathways for eDNA detections beyond a live fish.

    U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), co-author of the Stop Invasive Species Act that was signed into law by President Obama earlier this year, made a statement after the announcement of the eDNA results indicating that it follows last week's
announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers saying it will not complete its plan to stop the entry of Asian carp into the Great Lakes by 2013 as Stabenow's new law requires [See WIMS 10/5/12]. She said, "This discovery further underscores the Army Corps of Engineers' responsibility to complete its work as mandated by the law. Asian carp are on our doorstep, and the only thing protecting the Great Lakes are the electric barriers. There are thousands of Michigan jobs that rely on the Great Lakes, and we need more than temporary fixes. We passed bipartisan legislation to require the Army Corps to finally make stopping Asian carp a top priority, and the Corps needs to follow the law and complete their work."
    Access a release from ACRCC with additional information (click here). Access the ACRCC website (click here). Access the full eDNA sampling details (click here). Access the release from Sen. Stabenow (click here).
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