Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has added Minnesota’s support to a lawsuit by the state of Michigan against the state of Illinois to force the closure of a canal connecting the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan. Unless the canal is closed, Asian carp will make their way into the Great Lakes and eventually Minnesota inland lakes, rivers and stream. The lawsuit will be heard by the U.S. States Supreme Court on Thursday.
“If they invade the Great Lakes, they will have access to the rivers and tributaries that feed into the Great Lakes, thereby threatening inland waters,” Swanson said in a brief to the high court. “This would be extremely destructive to Minnesota’s economy and way of life, where inland fishing is an important recreational and economic pursuit. Indeed, Minnesota is known as ‘The Land of 10,000 Lakes,’ and the recreational fishing in Minnesota alone is a $2.725 billion per year industry.”
The carp are invasive and reproduce rapidly, crowding out native fish. They also startle easily and have injured boaters when they jump out of the water.
Illinois constructed an electric barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to keep the fish out of Lake Michigan, but in November researchers found evidence of the fish above the barrier. That leaves only one lock and dam between the carp and the lake. Two weeks ago, Michigan filed suit to close that lock.
But business interests are fighting back. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce said that the closure of the canal will mean $500 million in expenses as grains, coal and petroleum have to be shipped on highways instead of the cheaper barges.
“There’s no monetary comparison to an ecosystem,” Swanson told the Christian Science Monitor. “They’re an American treasure. Once you contaminate them with Asian carp, that treasure is jeopardized and can’t be changed. You can’t pay Michigan or Ohio or Minnesota enough money to ruin the Great Lakes.”
Here’s a video of the carp jumping out of the water and onto boaters: