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States urge pressure to block Great Lakes invading species

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By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Six Great Lakes states that unsuccessfully sought a court order to seal off the lakes from invading Asian carp on Wednesday asked other states to apply pressure on Congress to act.

The plea was sent to 27 states that could suffer or have suffered from the impact of foreign species invading the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin such as Zebra mussels and Asian carp.

Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin other states to sign off on a letter by September 13 that would ask congressional leaders to act on two pending pieces of legislation. The legislation would call for immediate action on separating the Great Lakes basin from the Mississippi River and speed up a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study on the subject due to be completed in 2015.

The focus has been on man-made waterways near Chicago that scientists say are pathways for invasive species, from mussels dumped in the Great Lakes from the ballast water of ocean-going ships to Asian carp that escaped into the Mississippi River from fish farms during past floods.

The voracious Asian carp have taken over stretches of the river and its tributaries, and the Army Corps has taken steps such as electronic fences to block their advance into Lake Michigan. So far, one carp has been caught within a few miles of Lake Michigan.

The attorneys general of the six states, arguing that the carp threaten the Great Lakes' $7 billion fishery, lost their bid in U.S. District Court for a preliminary injunction to separate the two basins.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling this month, but said the lawsuit had merit and that the efforts to block the invading carp needed to be monitored closely.

The states cited a list of 40 aquatic invasive species -- 30 that threaten the Mississippi River basin and 10 that pose risks to the Great Lakes.

"We have Asian carp coming into Lake Michigan and Zebra mussels moving out of the Great Lakes into the heart of our country, both of which are like poison to the ecology of our waters," Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement.

"This is not just a Great Lakes issue, it is a national issue. By working together we hope to put pressure on the federal government to act before it's too late," he said.

(Editing by Greg McCune)