The U.S. Supreme Court has turned down a second request to immediately close Chicago area shipping locks and dams to prevent the movement of bighead and silver carp through the Chicago Waterway System into the Great Lakes.
On Monday, March 22, the court refused Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox’s second request for a preliminary injunction that would order Illinois and federal officials to close the locks. The court refused the original request in January, but the state of Michigan filed another motion last month, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found silver carp DNA in Lake Michigan for the first time.
The Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court not to close the locks, and last month announced a $78.5 million plan to combat the invasive fish. Under the plan, navigational locks in Chicago-area waterways would continue to function, but would open less frequently. The administration says the measure is part of a strageg to keep the fish from gaining a foothold in the Great Lakes until a long-term solution can be found. Critics of the plan say it doesn't go far enough and that the locks should be closed immediately and permanently.
Asian carp have been migrating up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers toward the Great Lakes for more than a decade, crowding out native fish species along the way. Some species of Asian carp can grow up to 4 feet long and weigh 100 pounds. They can consume up to 40 percent of their body weight daily in plankton, the base of the food chain for Great Lakes fish. Scientists fear that if Asian carp establish breeding populations in the Great Lakes, they could disrupt the food chain and endanger the $7 billion sport and commercial fishing industry.