Gov. Mark Dayton says the state is working hard to stop Asian carp from advancing up the Mississippi River into Minnesota.
By now, readers of Outdoor News know about the imminent threat that Asian carp (including silver, bighead and black carp) pose to the precious waters of our wonderful state. Silently and steadily, they are migrating up the Mississippi River. If established here, they would forever change the ecology and human uses of many of our water resources.
Thus it is critical that we act as quickly as possible, in whatever ways feasible, to stop the spread of Asian carp. We must also continue to work on other aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels and Eurasion watermilfoil. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr and his staff have been working in overdrive to identify control options, assemble funding, and get authority to put protections in place.
Tim Schlagenhaft is the DNR’s point person on its Asian carp response effort (as suggested by Dennis Anderson in Feb. 12 Star Tribune, for his outstanding expertise). Tim has spent most of his career at DNR working on issues related to the Mississippi River, and has worked in close cooperation with many agencies and organizations to develop the state’s Asian carp action plan (see link at bottom). This plan outlines several steps we must take, both now and longer-term, to defeat this serious threat.
The first step, which is gaining the most attention, is the need to construct deterrent barriers and slow the carps’ migration. We have very good options at Lock and Dam #1 (Ford Dam) and Upper St. Anthony Falls. Biologists are continuing to explore the feasibility of additional barriers at Lock and Dam #2 (Hastings) and somewhere on the Minnesota River.
Work is also underway on the Coon Rapids dam to make it a more effective barrier, with funds approved last year. The Legislature is currently considering several funding options using State Bonding or the Outdoor Heritage Fund to pay for engineering and construction of one or more additional barriers. Funding is critically needed in this legislative session, if we are to make the necessary progress.
Secondly, we are working very closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop solutions. The Lock and Dam system is operated by the Corps, who have their own expertise in Asian carp control techniques from their work on the Great Lakes. Deterrent barriers which use electricity present many challenges in both safety and operations; and the DNR is working with the Corps to address them.
We continue to explore emergency closure of the St. Anthony Falls lock, should that be our last line of defense in a critical situation. The DNR is working with the Metropolitan Council to determine the costs, benefits, and losses from emergency closure of the lock. That analysis will be important information for our Congressional delegation, because the Corps’ position is that only an Act of Congress can authorize the lock’s closure.
Third, we continue to refine techniques for early detection of Asian carp using environmental DNA (eDNA) and are increasing our monitoring efforts. Knowing where fish are showing up is critical to stopping them. We also need to invest much more in research. All of the work I have just described will only slow the spread of the carp; none of it will eliminate them.
Work at the University of Minnesota shows some promise of finding ways to reduce carp populations or even eradicate them. Complete eradication must be our goal. The DNR and others are sponsoring research workshops this winter to assess the state of knowledge, and identify areas where specific research is needed.
Fortunately, combating this serious threat to our precious waters and our way of life has had strong bi-partisan support. When it comes to protecting the state we love, we are Minnesotans, not partisans.