Posted by: Steven M. Taber | April 26, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Consider Michigan's Asian Carp Case

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an Order today, Monday, April 26, 2010, stating simply “The motion of Michigan to reopen and for a supplemental decree is denied. The alternative motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied.”  Thus, the State of Michigan’s third attempt to get the high court to have Illinois close access to the Great Lakes to protect from an infestation of Asian Carp was denied.

Michigan and several other Great Lakes states and several environmental groups all were trying to force Illinois, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the barge shipping industry and the federal government close the locks on the Chicago River so that the invasive species could get into Lake Michigan.   Once in Lake Michigan, Asian Carp, Michigan argued, could devastate the commercial and recreational fishing industry.

Illinois argued that it is successfully employing electric barriers to hold back the invasion and that closing the locks would be both ineffective at stopping the carp and extremely harmful to the Chicago economy.

As is typical in this type of case, the law used did not directly concern the issue at hand.  Michigan sought for the Supreme Court to reopen a 1929 decision that limited how much water Illinois can divert from Lake Michigan, which stemmed from Chicago’s construction of the canal to reverse the flow of the Chicago River and keep pollution out of Lake Michigan.  The Supreme Court limited the amount of water Illinois could divert from the Great Lakes in a series of decrees, most recently in 1980.

The federal government opposed Michigan’s suit, saying that the drastic measure of closing the locks was premature.  Moreover, the federal government believed that Michigan and the other states should have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court instead of attempting to go directly to the Supreme Court.  Michigan had been attempting to invoke the U.S. Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction for legal disputes among states.

The case pitted environmental groups, Michigan and several other Great Lakes states against Illinois, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the barge shipping industry and the federal government.

Michigan argued that the threat of the invasive species getting into Lake Michigan, where it could devastate the commercial and recreational fishing industry, required the court to order the locks closed immediately.

Opponents argued that the federal government and the state of Illinois are successfully employing electric barriers to hold back the invasion and that closing the locks would be both ineffective at stopping the carp and extremely harmful to the Chicago economy.

Michigan wanted the Supreme Court to reopen a 1929 decision that limited how much water Illinois can divert from Lake Michigan, which stemmed from Chicago’s construction of the canal to reverse the flow of the Chicago River and keep pollution out of Lake Michigan.

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