Minnesota Governor Dayton asks Congress for help with invasive carp
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Gov. Mark Dayton
outlined an urgent case Monday for stopping invasive Asian carp
from spreading widely in Minnesota’s waters, convening a summit
where he said the state will need help from Congress and where
officials discussed whether a Mississippi River lock and dam in
Minneapolis should be permanently closed.
At the meeting billed as a “carp summit,” the first-term
Democratic governor said the state risks running out of time to
block the spread after scientists last month found DNA evidence of
Asian carp in the St. Croix River along the Minnesota-Wisconsin
border. Dayton’s draft action plan calls on Congress to grant
authority for emergency dam closures if invasive carp are found
downstream. Other measures are also on the table, such as an
air-bubbling barrier at the St. Croix mouth.
“We owe it to future generations to do everything we possibly
can to prevent this, because an ounce of prevention is worth about
a ton of cure when it comes to these situations,” Dayton told
reporters after the meeting.
Asian carp have been spreading up the Mississippi River basin
since they escaped from fish farms in the 1980s, devastating native
fish populations as they disrupt the aquatic food chain by
devouring plankton. One type can jump 10 feet out of the water,
posing a danger to boaters. State officials are concerned that the
carp will permanently harm Minnesota’s rivers and lakes if they
The summit included congressional staffers, state lawmakers and
representatives from Canada, Wisconsin, the White House Council on
Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Dayton
said he plans a follow-up meeting involving Minnesota’s members of
Congress next month.
“We have a problem. It is on our doorstep and we need to act
quickly,” Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said.
One of the options would be emergency closures of the Upper St.
Anthony Falls lock and dam in Minneapolis and the Ford Dam in St.
Paul – both on the Mississippi River. Closing either would require
an act of Congress because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is not
currently allowed to shut locks and dams to prevent the spread of
invasive species. The draft action plan also calls for a
feasibility study of permanently shutting down the Upper St.
Anthony Falls lock and dam, part of a two-lock system that lifts
boats over the falls.
“To effectively close Upper St. Anthony – it’s closed right now
until traffic enters it, which we are authorized and mandated to do
for navigation – but to close it, I think what you’re talking to,
is abandoning the lock. Closing it and abandoning it,” said Col.
Michael Price of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Steve Hirsch, who heads the state Department of Natural
Resources’ ecological and water resources division, said Upper St.
Anthony Falls is the state’s most effective natural barrier against
invasive species – the closest thing Minnesota has to a failproof
But others pointed out that closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls
lock wouldn’t prevent Asian carp from spreading into the Minnesota
River, which meets the Mississippi downstream. Closing the Ford Dam
– also known as Lock and Dam No. 1 – also wouldn’t help the
Minnesota because it sits upstream from the confluence with the
Dayton said it’s too soon to take a position on permanently
closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock. First he wants to know
more about the economic effects and potential alternatives.
Further upstream on the Mississippi, the state is also planning
$16 million worth of improvements to the Coon Rapids Dam starting
Landwehr said the bubble barrier being considered for the St.
Croix is a relatively untested technology but might be the state’s
best current option to deal with Asian carp there.