The U.S. Supreme Court turned away Michigan’s efforts to make the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers install nets in Chicago-area waterways to keep out Asian carp, a blow to the state’s efforts to prevent what it calls an “ecological and economic disaster.”
Today’s action marked the fourth time in the past two years that the justices refused to consider requests for court action mandating short-term defensive measures while the Corps devises a longer-term battle plan against the Asian carp.
Michigan and four nearby states say silver carp and bighead carp, which have migrated from the lower Mississippi River to within at least 60 miles of Lake Michigan, would spread rapidly if they reach the Great Lakes, consume nutrients needed by other species and harm the region’s tourism business and its $7 billion sport-fishing industry.
“Failure to decisively respond to this crisis will allow the carp to move for the first time into the Great Lakes, creating an ecological and economic disaster,” Michigan’s petition to the Supreme Court said. “Unless something is done, the ecological disaster of Asian carp invading the Great Lakes is a matter of when, not if.”
Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin joined Michigan in suing the Corps and Chicago’s metropolitan water district over the pace of response to the threat that Asian carp may make their way through Chicago waterways into the lake.
They asked the Supreme Court to reverse lower court decisions rejecting requests for the installation of nets in the Little Calumet and Grand Calumet rivers while the case is being considered. They also wanted to speed a government study of other ways to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.
The U.S. Justice Department, representing the Corps, said the states are asking the court to “second-guess” the decisions of “expert agencies that are administering the ongoing effort to combat Asian carp.”
The states “seek to take time and resources away from the agencies’ priorities and substitute their own priorities, with which the agencies disagree,” the U.S. argued.
Installing nets would increase the risk of flooding if debris in the barriers impedes water flow, the U.S. said. The Corps has already put in place systems that use electric currents in the water to keep carp out of the same waterways, the U.S. said.
The states’ request for an 18-month deadline on completion of a continuing study of the Asian carp response sets an arbitrary timetable that may not be practical, the U.S. said.
The case is Michigan v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 11-541.