CHICAGO – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to order the emergency closure of Chicago-area shipping locks to prevent voracious Asian carp from slipping into the Great Lakes, leaving disappointed environmentalists and state officials vowing to continue their fight.
In a one-line ruling, the nation’s highest court for the second time rejected a request by Michigan and several other Great Lakes states to issue a preliminary injunction shutting the locks in the increasingly desperate battle against the invasive fish, which have migrated up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers toward the lakes after escaping from fish farms in the South decades ago.
Asian carp often leap high out of the water when boats are near. They can weigh 100 pounds and consume up to 40 percent of their body weight daily in plankton, the base of the food chain for Great Lakes fish. Many fear that if they reach the lakes, the invaders could lay waste to a $7 billion fishing industry by starving out competitors such as salmon and walleye.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, a Republican running for governor, said he would continue his battle in the courts and repeated calls for President Barack Obama to act to at least temporarily close the locks.
While the Obama administration has called defeating Asian carp a high priority, it has sided with Illinois in opposing the closure.
Barge and tug operators, for whom Chicago-area canals are a vital link to and from the Great Lakes, praised Monday’s ruling.
“We’re obviously very pleased,” said Lynn Muench, vice president of American Waterway Operators, the main industry trade group.
An electric barrier that delivers a nonlethal jolt to scare off fish is the only thing now standing between the carp and Lake Michigan. The Army Corps of Engineers expects to finish constructing a third segment of the electric barrier in the canal by October.