Schuette Takes On Fight Against Asian Carp To Protect Michigan's Environment and Jobs

Contact: John Sellek or Joy Yearout 517-373-8060

January 13,  2011

            LANSING -  Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced he will renew efforts to protect Michigan's environment and economy by continuing Michigan's lawsuit aimed at stopping the march of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.  Schuette was joined by Gov. Rick Snyder's Office of the Great Lakes Director Patty Birkholz and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

"Standing by and letting Asian carp invade the Great Lakes would be an unprecedented ecological and economic disaster," said Schuette.  "We must defend Michigan's unique environment and fight to keep Michigan jobs." 

Schuette met with leaders of Michigan's environmental and sportsmen's communities this week to form a united front in the fight to block Asian carp.  These groups included MUCC, Trout Unlimited, Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen's Association, National Wildlife Federation, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, Nature Conservancy, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"The imminent invasion by Asian carp through the Chicago area waterways is one of the most significant threats ever to the Great Lakes," said Patty Birkholz, the Director of Gov. Rick Snyder's Office of the Great Lakes.  "As a state, we must join with others and take all necessary actions to stop the invasion. The Office of the Great Lakes and others in the Department of Natural Resources and Environment stand ready to help any way possible."

"Asian Carp prevention is of critical importance to the ecology and economy of the Great Lakes," said Dr. Bryan Burroughs, Executive Director, Michigan Trout Unlimited.  "Unfortunately, it appears that it is going to take much work to make the clear solutions happen.  Fortunately, we have an Attorney General that remains committed to doing everything within the judicial branch to continue moving us to a solution.  We are grateful for Mr. Schuette's commitment to this important fight." 

"The sportsmen and women of Michigan and the Great Lakes region deserve better than the Army Corps of Engineers' lackluster efforts to stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes," said Erin McDonough, MUCC Executive Director.  "We expect our federal and state leaders to take immediate, aggressive actions that will preserve our sportfishing heritage and $7 billion Great Lakes sportfishery.  MUCC applauds Attorney General Schuette's commitment to live up to this expectation by continuing Michigan's legal front to protect the Great Lakes and our outdoor heritage."

"Asian carp pose an extreme threat to the Great Lakes and our economy. If these monster invasive fish colonize the Great Lakes, the damage will be devastating," said Andy Buchsbaum, Regional Executive director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center.  "But so far, the response of the federal government has been too slow, particularly in pursuing an effective permanent barrier that will once and for all keep the invasive carp out of the lakes.  For that reason, National Wildlife Federation supports the efforts of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to spur the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to install a permanent barrier to stop the carp." 

Schuette's suit calls for both long-term and immediate actions by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. 

·     Schuette is asking the Court to force the Army Corps of Engineers to shorten their planning to create a permanent ecological barrier between the Mississippi and Great Lakes from five years to 18 months.  This is vital to stopping not only the flow of invasive species into the Great Lakes, but to stop their movement down into the Mississippi basin. 

·     While the study is being completed, Schuette is asking for:

o   Increased activity in a number of areas to stop the Asian carps' advance, including:

o   Operating locks in a way that limits the movement of the fish;

o   Installing other interim physical barriers to fish passage;

o   Increased monitoring for evidence of the fish beyond current electrical barriers using the best available techniques, including environmental DNA (eDNA)testing; and

o   Targeted poisoning and netting in Chicago-area waterways. 

Schuette noted that the eDNA technology employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to detect the presence of Asian carp beyond barriers in the Chicago area was validated earlier this month by a paper published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Conservation Letters, published by the Society for Conservation Biology.  It is this information that has played a key role Michigan's case before the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois in Chicago.  

Based upon his expertise in invasive species and the results of eDNA testing in Chicago waterways, independent expert witness Dr. David Lodge of the University of Notre Dame has testified that the threat of an Asian carp invasion is real.  In fact, Dr. Lodge testified, "there is a risk, a very imminent risk of invasion," later adding that such "invasions are often irreversible."

The repeated discovery of Asian carp eDNA beyond electrical barriers in Chicago, in addition to the discovery of a live carp beyond the barrier, brought together a coalition of five Great Lakes states in the suit, with Michigan being joined by Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania on July 19, 2010.

The most recent district court action on the case occurred on January 7, 2011 in which the Court considered plans to schedule the ongoing suit.  In addition, Michigan has filed an appeal of a December 2, 2010 ruling that denied Michigan's motion for a preliminary injunction that would put immediate remedies in place, such as closing locks and increasing monitoring, as the underlying case goes forward.  Michigan's brief supporting its request for the preliminary injunction is due to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit by January 26, 2011.

 Renewed Congressional action is another important avenue to address the Great Lakes states' concerns.  The CARP Act and the Permanent Prevention of Asian Carp Act were both sponsored by U.S Representative Dave Camp (R-MI) in the 111th Congress.  The legislation mirrored Michigan's motion for preliminary injunction, calling for immediate actions to block the passage of Asian carp into the Great Lakes and requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite a study to determine the best way to permanently separate the Mississippi River Basin from Lake Michigan.