Testimony Today in Asian Carp Suit to Show Urgent Threat to Great Lakes
Written by Attorney General Mike Cox   
Tuesday, 07 September 2010 19:09

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said today he is pleased that the Great Lakes will finally get their day in court, with testimony being heard for the first time this morning in Michigan’s long fight to stop Asian carp before they can destroy Michigan’s water-based economy and way of life.  

Beginning at 11:30 A.M. (EDT) today at the U.S. District Court in Chicago, well-known biologist Dr. David Lodge, of the University of Notre Dame, will lead off with testimony regarding the wide-spread presence of Asian carp eDNA at multiple locations near and in Lake Michigan.  Written testimony supporting Michigan and four other states has been submitted from experts including biologist Dr. Tammy Newcomb, of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE), who argues the threat to the Great Lakes and its waterways is urgent and will cause great damage if not stopped at Chicago, and transportation policy expert Dr. John C. Taylor, of Wayne State University, who notes that barge traffic affected by lock closure accounts for less than one percent of all freight traffic in Chicago.

“I am excited that the Great Lakes will finally get their day in court,” said Cox.  “Our experts will prove we face a biological crisis that will cripple the economy of the Great Lakes if not addressed immediately.  With the discovery of a live Asian carp beyond the so-called barriers in Chicago, there is great urgency to act now because thousands of jobs hang in the balance."

In the hearings, Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr. will hear testimony regarding Michigan’s motion for Preliminary Injunction, which calls for several short-term responses to the Asian carp threat, the need for which was made clear by the recent capture of a live bighead carp in Lake Calumet, six miles from Lake Michigan and beyond all barriers currently in place.  The hearings will take place at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago today, Wednesday, September 8th, and Friday, September 10th, if necessary.  Attorneys general from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Ohio have joined Cox in his lawsuit, which was filed July 19, 2010.   

On August 31, 2010 the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians filed a motion to join the attorneys general as an additional party to the lawsuit.  According to the motion, the tribe is concerned with the negative impact Asian carp could have on Great Lakes fisheries,  citing tribal fishing rights in the Great Lakes and adjoining inland waterways.   

Today Dr. Lodge is scheduled to testify.  Dr. Lodge is a national expert on invasive species with experience pioneering the use of eDNA technology to detect Asian carp in Chicago area waterways.  He will explain how scientific evidence illustrates the urgent threat of Asian carp invading Great Lakes waterways and the critical need to take action.  Dr. Lodge is an independent scientist who was not hired by the State of Michigan.  Previously, he was employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assist their study of Asian carp.  In February of 2010, Dr. Lodge testified before the U.S. House of Representatives.

Dr. John C. Taylor, of Wayne State University, has submitted written testimony addressing the regional economic implications of an Asian carp invasion in Great Lakes waterways.  Taylor’s research finds that less than one percent of Chicago freight traffic would be affected by a temporary lock closure to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.  He explains why the cost estimates by Chicago business interests and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are both overstated and economically unrealistic.  Dr. Taylor concludes that wild claims that lock closure would have “disastrous” impacts on the regional Chicago economy are exaggerated at best.  

Dr. Tammy Newcomb of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) has submitted written testimony illustrating the damage Asian carp would do to the Great Lakes ecosystem.  She explains that Asian carp consume mass amounts of plankton and would ultimately alter the food web to crowd out native fish like Chinook salmon, trout, and steelhead. Dr. Newcomb also notes the difficulty of finding live Asian carp through traditional methods being used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Regarding the live Asian carp recently discovered in Lake Calumet, Dr. Newcomb concludes, “the most scientifically plausible inference is that the fish in question is one of a number of bighead and silver carp that have migrated through the CAWS [Chicago Area Waterway System], swimming either through or around the electrical barrier” (p. 12).  Dr. Newcomb recommends a series of actions to address the threat of Asian carp, and her recommendations are reflected in Michigan’s lawsuit.

Michigan’s request before the court this week calls for the temporary closure of the O’Brien and Chicago Locks and blocking other pathways in the Chicago water system, except as needed to protect public health and safety, the increased use of rotenone fish poison and the installation of nets and other physical barriers, among other actions.  The lawsuit makes clear that all of the requested action would be subject to exceptions to prevent flooding, allow access for emergency responders and any other action necessary to prevent serious threats to public health and safety.
Earlier this year, Cox petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and address the threat of Asian carp.  The Supreme Court declined to take up the case but did not rule on the merits of the legal claims by Michigan and other Great Lakes states.

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