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Great Lakes states in a fish fight over Asian carp invaders

Environmentalists and neighboring states say Illinois mishandled the Asian carp invasion, which threatens a water system’s natural food chain. A multi-agency task force that includes the US Army Corps of Engineers is looking at ways to protect the Great Lakes.

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Crews dump rotenone in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009 in Lockport, Ill. The toxic chemical was dumped on a nearly 6-mile stretch of the canal as part of state and federal efforts to keep the voracious and invasive Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

M. Spencer Green/AP

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The Great Lakes are under threat from the Asian carp, an invasive species of fish whose presence is pitting neighboring states against Illinois in a showdown with no clear resolution.

Nearly 200,000 pounds of fish were deliberately poisoned Wednesday night in a $3 million effort by federal and state agencies to eradicate the Asian carp from the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, a canal built in 1900 to open up commerce between the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan.

But on Friday, only one Asian carp was found among the thousands of dead fish, which Stacey Solano, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, confirms as “the furthest north a physical specimen [of the fish] has been found close to the Great Lakes.” She adds, “Now we know 100 percent they are here.”

The single discovery, Ms. Solano says, is motivation enough for the Asian Carp Rapid Response Workgroup, a multi-agency task force that includes the US Army Corps of Engineers, to move forward and figure out “the next steps to protect the Great Lakes.” The reason is environmental as well as economical: The lakes support a $7 billion sports fish industry.

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