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Action sought to stave off carp from overtaking Great Lakes

| Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010

CHICAGO -- Five states are asking a federal judge in Chicago to take emergency action to close two shipping locks and install barriers to prevent Asian carp from overrunning the Great Lakes via a "carp highway."

At the first hearing in the case Monday, Judge Robert M. Dow Jr. showed no signs of rushing into a decision. He scheduled Sept. 7 and 8 to hear expert testimony in the case, including from scientists about the environmental DNA testing that has found genetic material from Asian carp in Illinois waterways near Lake Michigan.

Asian carp, which can weigh up to 100 pounds, have been migrating up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers toward the Great Lakes for decades.

Biologists fear if the ravenous fish get into the lakes, they could decimate a $7 billion-a-year fishing industry by gobbling plankton, a key link in the food chain that supports prized species such as salmon and walleye.

Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania want to temporarily close the O'Brien and Chicago locks and install barriers to stop the fish. The states' request makes allowances for water releases to prevent flooding and other threats to public safety.

The Supreme Court has twice rejected state pleas to close the locks but did not rule on the merits of the legal claims.

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