AP Environmental Writer
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) – Five states are moving forward with a lawsuit against the federal government demanding steps to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes, despite recent congressional action, the Michigan attorney general’s office said Thursday.
Legislation approved last month requires the Army Corps of Engineers to complete a plan for shielding the lakes from the invasive carp within 18 months, or toward the end of 2013. A quicker timetable was one of the requests in a suit filed three years ago by Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
But the states will continue pressing their case because the legislation doesn’t guarantee that the corps ultimately will sever a man-made link between Lake Michigan and carp-infested waters near Chicago, said Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. The lawsuit seeks a court order for such a step.
“The bill passed by Congress puts a limit on the Army corps’ endless studies but doesn’t address future actions,” Yearout told The Associated Press. “We’re hopeful the lawsuit could result in permanent separation.”
The case recently was transferred from U.S. District Judge Robert Dow to another judge, John Tharp, as part of a docket reshuffling, Yearout said. It has not been scheduled for trial. A government motion to dismiss the suit is pending.
Invasive bighead and silver carp have infested the Mississippi River and many of its tributaries, including the Illinois River, which is linked to Lake Michigan by a waterway network that includes a navigational canal near Chicago.
The corps contends an electric barrier in the canal is blocking the carp’s path northward toward the lake. But Asian carp DNA has turned up repeatedly in water samples collected as recently as June in waters beyond the barrier.
According to the corps, the genetic material doesn’t necessarily prove the presence of live fish in the area and could have come from other sources, such as ballast water dumped by barges after being picked up downstream.
The agency is continuing to produce scientific and economic reports that will help shape its eventual recommendations on preventing migration of Asian carp and other species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi basin.
A report released Thursday said 37 federally recognized American Indian tribes in the region engage in subsistence fishing, yielding an annual value of $15,000 to $16,000 per household. Another found that hundreds of professional fishing tournaments are held on the lakes each year.