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September 1, 2014

States experience setback in Asian carp fight, Great Lakes at risk

A federal judge threw out a lawsuit that would force government officials to place barriers in Chicago-area waterways to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes, the Associated Press reports.

U.S. District Judge John Tharp says the states would have to take up the issue with Congress because of a federal law that requires the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers to keep shipping channels open between Lake Michigan and one of Chicago’s waterways, the Des Plaines River. Constructing dams in any navigable waterway requires consent from Congress.

The major concern is that the invasive species have the potential to out-compete native species, altering the entire ecosystem and damaging the region’s $7 billion fishing industry.

Minnesota alone has a $2.7 billion fishing industry at stake if the fish reach inland waterways. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson tells MPR that time is running out.

“Once they get a breeding population, they take over,” Swanson says. “It would be a train wreck for the economy. It would take this wonderful American natural resource, our Great Lakes, and really turn it upside down.”

MPR says Swanson and attorney generals from four other states are discussing whether to re-file the lawsuit, appeal or take a different route.