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Is Supreme Court Rejection a Load of Carp?

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By Robyn Hagan Cain on February 29, 2012 12:03 PM

Connecting the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds through the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) has been a boon to industry and commerce, and it supports transportation and recreation. But opening a pathway between bodies of fresh water has a price.

Within CAWS, the price is an invasive species of Asian carp.

Five states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania — sued the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (the District) in federal court, seeking a preliminary injunction that would require the defendants to put in place additional physical barriers throughout the CAWS, implement new procedures to stop invasive carp, and expedite a study of how best to separate the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds permanently.

The district court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied relief. This week, the Supreme Court refused to hear the plaintiffs' appeal.

The White House claims that court intervention is premature, as the Corps has time to develop a long-term solution to the Asian carp problem. The plaintiff states are concerned that the carp will undermine the Great Lakes freshwater ecosystem if allowed to invade. The fish, which weigh up to 110 pounds, are already well-established in the Mississippi River Basin, reports Environment & Energy Publishing.

According to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Asian carp ruling from last summer, "the carp are voracious eaters that consume small organisms on which the entire food chain relies; they crowd out native species as they enter new environments; they reproduce at a high rate; they travel quickly and adapt readily; and they have a dangerous habit of jumping out of the water and harming people and property." (These fish sound like mutants. Perhaps they are related to Dr. Evil's ill-tempered mutant sea bass?)

While the Asian carp dispute sounds like a problem worthy of Supreme Court intervention, this isn't the first time the Court has rejected the states' attempts at reeling in the threat. Until the problem escalates, the states are left waiting for the Corps to get its act together and carpe carp.

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