The Asian Carp Dispute

asian carpIn recent weeks, there has been significant media coverage of the Asian carp issue in Chicago-area waterways.  Many governments and groups are concerned that unless some drastic action is taken, the Asian carp – voracious feeders that are also known to jump out of the water at boaters – will soon enter Lake Michigan and destroy the ecosystem of the Great Lakes.  If this happens, the Michigan fishing and boating industries could be devastated.

This week, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox filed a petition with the United States Supreme Court, essentially asking the Court to close all waterways from Illinois leading to Lake Michigan, to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.  You may be wondering why the United States Supreme Court is involved.  The answer is that this is a dispute between two states – Michigan and Illinois – and the US Supreme Court has “original jurisdiction” over disputes between the states.  28 USC § 1251(a).  Original jurisdiction means that if such a dispute arises, the only court that is allowed to hear that dispute is the US Supreme Court.

Essentially, Michigan’s Attorney General is arguing that the threatened harm to Michigan and the Great Lakes is so severe that the Court should take the drastic measure of closing off all rivers and canals leading from Illinois to Lake Michigan, by closing locks and/or sluice gates.  The Attorney General acknowledges that this would likely harm commercial and pleasure boating traffic in the Chicago area, but maintains that this harm would be insignificant compared to the harm caused by Asian carp reaching Lake Michigan and destroying the Great Lakes fishing industry.

Michigan’s Attorney General has asked the Supreme Court to weigh the environmental and business concerns of protecting the Great Lakes against the business concerns of keeping open the waterways from Chicago to Lake Michigan.  Stay tuned for the Court’s ruling.

See this article in The Detroit News for more information:

Also see the Michigan Attorney General’s website for more information:,1607,7-164-34391-228350–,00.html

This article was written by Melissa L. Demorest, Associate at Demorest Law Firm.

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