Michigan’s Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians supports the lawsuit that would force Chicago and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do more to keep Asian carp from spreading into the Great Lakes via Lake Michigan.
Five states are currently suing the Corp and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago for creating a public nuisance by refusing to close shipping locks and gates leading to Lake Michigan. Asian carp, also called “jumping carp,” have infested most of the Mississippi River and its tributaries and threaten to enter the Great Lakes.
Fishing interests fear that once in the lakes, the carp will eradicate other species by competing with juvenile sportfish and baitfish for food. The Grand Traverse Band says its fishing rights, guaranteed by an 1836 treaty, might be imperiled if the carp reach the Great Lakes.
The original lawsuit filed by Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania is being decided now. The states have asked Judge Robert M. Dow Jr. to issue a preliminary order to close the shipping locks and take other steps to keep the carp out.
Bighead and silver carp, both Asian fish, have been migrating up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers toward the Great Lakes for years since escaping into Louisiana waters, where they were used as water filters by operators of commercial fish farms. Carp are seen as a threat to the $7 billion-a-year fishing industry in the Great Lakes because their primary diet consists of plankton, a key link in the food chain that supports species such as smelt, whitefish, salmon and walleye.
DNA from Asian carp has been detected past an electronic barrier designed to prevent them from reaching Lake Michigan through Chicago-area waterways. A 20-pound carp was captured in one of the waterways in June, the first seen above the barrier system. The administration of President Barrack Obama, a Chicago native, as well as the state of Illinois and regional business groups contend that closing the shipping access would damage the area economy with no guarantee of keeping the carp out of the lakes.