Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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IL: Asian carp, locks decision remains question mark

Chicago – The carp arguments continue. And continue.

Attorneys representing five states seeking the immediate closure
of Chicago-area shipping locks to stop the spread of Asian carp
made final arguments in federal court on Oct. 18. Michigan,
Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin say the move would
ensure the invasive fish won’t overrun the Great Lakes and decimate
a multi-billion dollar fishing industry.

Questions during the hearing focused on the reliability of
environmental DNA tests indicating the fish may already be near
Lake Michigan.

Robert Reichel, a lawyer for the five states, said the science
seeking genetic traces of live carp is solid and proves the fish
could slip into Lake Michigan any day.

The judge said on Oct. 18 that his decision will likely take
several weeks.

Meanwhile, an environmental group is recommending the separation
of Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basin to fend off the
carp.

The National Resources Defense Council’s report says permanent
barriers would also improve Chicago’s outdated water system.

Researchers said earlier this month that they found no genetic
traces of the carp in northwest Indiana close to Lake Michigan.

University of Notre Dame scientists sampled five areas for
environmental DNA. All 125 samples taken in August tested negative
for traces of Asian carp, DNR in Illinois and Indiana
announced.

“This is the most extensive sampling we’ve seen on the Indiana
side of the border,” said Thom Cmar, an attorney with the Natural
Resources Defense Council. “It’s good news but it’s important not
to over-interpret the results in light of what we’ve seen on the
Illinois side. There’s still a lot of reasons to be concerned.”

A 20-pound, 3-foot-long Asian carp was found in Lake Calumet on
the south side of Chicago six miles from Lake Michigan on June 22.
It was the first time a live carp had been found above the electric
barriers intended to keep them out.

A rapid response group has periodically sampled the Little
Calumet in Indiana, but not found evidence of Asian carp. The
sampling this summer was the most comprehensive testing in Indiana
waters. Researchers collected the most samples from the Indiana
Harbor, 54, and 46 total from Burns Harbor and Burns Ditch.

“There’s a complete vacuum now of effective, real-time data to
tell us where these fish are within the waterway system and guide
agency decision-making,” Cmar said. “The biggest concern is that
there’s a much bigger problem than we know because the agencies in
charge aren’t looking for it. This case of the Asian carp invading
Lake Michigan has been a case of ‘the more you look the more you
find.'”

Indiana officials admitted in late June that they found spawning
Asian carp in the Wabash River near Lafayette, but the fish has
been in Indiana waters since the mid-1990s, according to the
DNR.

“We need a lot more sampling and monitoring to make sure we
really do have a handle on this threat,” Cmar said.

Environmentalists fear the voracious Asian carp could eat up
food critical to native fish and devastate the Great Lakes.

Environmentalists have suggested the only permanent solution to
the Asian carp threat is to separate the Mississippi River from the
Great Lakes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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