Appeals Court Refuses to Close Chicago Locks To Deter Carp

Friday, August 26, 2011

On August 24, 2011, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit refused to issue a preliminary injunction to force the closure of locks on the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS).  
 
The case stems from the controversy as to how best to prevent invasive Asian Carp from moving up the Mississippi/Illinois waterway system into Lake Michigan.  The state of Michigan and others sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Chicago to force the lock closures and other measures.  Lock closures would result in immediate significant economic harm to PVA members that operate vessels in the Chicago area.
 
The lawsuit is not over.  It will likely return to the federal district court where the case will be heard in full.  If Michigan wins the case after a civil trial, the district court could choose to order an injunction then.
 
The appeals court based its ruling on its conclusion that issuing a preliminary injunction would cause significantly more harm than it would prevent, stating “Closing the locks to boat traffic would have a tremendous impact….  Recreational and tourist vessels would be stopped.  And last but certainly not least, closed locks would mean that all commercial shipping in the area between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River would have to find alternative routes.”  The judges also observed that federal and state agencies are actively pursuing an array of efforts to solve the problem of invasive carp.  The appeals court took notice of the fact that relevant agencies are usually better suited than individual judges to devise complex policy actions.

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