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SCOTUS Ducks Asian Carp

By JoshMogerman in News on Apr 27, 2010 2:20PM

In just two sentences, the US Supreme Court may have made the whole Asian carp fight a lot more complicated. The court released a terse statement yesterday to announce that they would not take up the case brought by the state attorneys general of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and New York. The other Great Lakes states had been petitioning for a century-old case still sitting before the Court be re-opened to force action to limit the invasive fish’s movement towards Lake Michigan. The Justices did not give any explanation, but Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan praised the decision, noting in a statement that, “The state of Illinois will continue its extensive work in collaboration with the federal government and all the Great Lakes states to protect the ecology and health of the Great Lakes by combating the progression of Asian carp.”

Though debate has largely focused on closure of locks in Chicago waterways, the suit had focused more broadly on potential permanent solutions. Marc Gaden of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission joined a growing chorus suggesting a separation of the Great Lakes basin from the Mississippi River system would be the way to go on Milwaukee Public Radio:

"What we’re really talking about is something a little bigger, something where you take a good, hard look at how water and other goods are moved around in that system and find out if there’s a better way of achieving your transportation goals and also, say, preventing flooding or doing something with large amounts of water.”

With SCOTUS walking away from the case, the states and other interested parties are now freed up to look at other legal and policy venues to address their concerns. So despite the non-decision, the issue is unlikely to go away as an array of new legal proceedings develop. The Army Corps of Engineers had been one of the defendants named in the suit (along with the State of Illinois and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District). They could be at the center of the next flash point of debate in the coming months when they unveil their draft study of solutions to the carp crisis. Until that report comes out, don’t be surprised if the fireworks keep coming.