* High court won't order closing of two Chicago-area locks
* Federal government said Michigan was unlikely to prevail
* Closing locks would hurt shippers
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON, Jan 19 The U.S. Supreme Court on
Tuesday rejected a request by the state of Michigan for an
injunction to force the closing of two Chicago-area waterway
locks to keep the Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.
The voracious Bighead and Silver carp are considered a dire
threat to the lakes' $7 billion fisheries.
The state last month took the unusual step of asking the
high court for an order that would close the two locks and
would require authorities to take all other action necessary to
keep the carp from entering the lakes.
Michigan asked that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the
state of Illinois and Chicago's sewer authority take more steps
to block the carp during flooding and ultimately to separate
the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River watershed.
Closing a lock and dam and the other measures could help
keep the carp from entering the lakes, but it also court hurt
shippers, who transport 15 million tonnes of commodities
through the connecting waterways each year.
Nearby Midwestern states such as Minnesota and Ohio
supported Michigan's request while Illinois and the federal
government opposed it.
U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan told the court that
Michigan failed to show likely irreparable harm, that the state
cannot prevail on the merits of its theory and Michigan cannot
justify the mandatory relief it demands.
If the Army Corps makes a final decision to reject the
steps Michigan wants, then the state can ask a federal judge to
decide if the agency acted lawfully, Kagan said.
While the court rejected the preliminary injunction, it
took no action on Michigan's separate request to reopen cases
dating back to the 1920s that control how much water Chicago
can withdraw from Lake Michigan.
A huge engineering project a century ago reversed the
direction of the Chicago River and diverts lake water into a
canal that connects Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River
watershed. The goal was to stop sewage releases into the lake.
Kagan said Michigan was trying to use old cases about water
flows and allotments to litigate an entirely different
environmental protection issue involving the carp.
(additional reporting by Andrew Stern in Chicago; editing by