Opinion: Fighting the threat of Asian carp

By now, Outdoor News readers know about the imminent threat that Asian carp (including silver, bighead and black carp) pose to the waters of our fine 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 work on other aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels and Eurasian 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 end). 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 under way 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, which has its own expertise in Asian carp control techniques from its work on the Great Lakes. Deterrent barriers that 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. 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, combatting this serious threat to our precious waters and our way of life has had strong bipartisan support. When it comes to protecting the state we love, we are Minnesotans, not partisans.

You can help! Contact your legislators and urge them to support the measures that must be taken in this legislative session to stop the spread of Asian carp and other invasive species.

See Asian carp action plan by visiting www.outdoornews.com/links

Categories: Asian Carp

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