St. Paul — The DNR is about ready to select a contractor to carry out the work associated with installing an Asian carp barrier at Lock and Dam 1 of the Mississippi River.
But even under the best-case scenario, a barrier wouldn’t be substantially complete until the end of March, 2014.
“That’s assuming there are no unanticipated issues that arise,” said Steve Hirsch, director of the DNR’s Ecological and Water Resources Division.
Money for the project is from a $7.5 million appropriation from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which takes in a portion of the money raised each year by the Legacy Amendment.
The agency envisions the following timeline for the barrier:
- Mid-November, 2012: preliminary design process complete; final proposed design selected. Also, review design with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers take ensure it has a chance of approval.
- End of February, 2013: have completed, detailed engineering plans drawn; present final plan to USACE for final approval.
- End of August, 2013: Final USACE approval process complete.
- November, 2013: begin barrier construction once the navigation season closes.
- End of March, 2014: have the barrier substantially complete by the time the 2014 navigation season opens.
As part of the $7.5 million appropriation, the DNR also has plans for five barriers in Jackson County in southwestern Minnesota, and one in Dickenson County, Iowa (cost-sharing with that state). While much of the attention on Asian carp has been focused on the Mississippi River, officials say it’s also necessary to stop them from coming in via waters of the southwest.
The agency also plans to evaluate the feasibility of using barriers to stop Asian carp at Lock and Dam 2 in Hastings, Minn., and along the Minnesota River at Mankato.
“We do think it’s going to be very difficult at those sites,” Hirsch said.
Not including the funds for Asian carp barriers, the DNR has $8.6 million in its current budget for aquatic invasive species.
“Right now we have a good dose of one-time money in our budget for the current biennium,” Hirsch said.
But to keep programs operating at current levels into the future, a long-term source of dedicated funding is necessary, officials say. An idea that’s been discussed – and that likely will come before the Legislature next year – is to increase to price of the boat registration surcharge. The current price is $5 for three years, which generates about $1.6 million a year. Increasing the price to $15 for boats under 17 feet, and $20 for those longer than 17 feet, would generate about $4.4 million a year, said Bob Meier, DNR legislative affairs director.
He said the DNR anticipates asking Gov. Mark Dayton to include the surcharge increase in his budget proposal.
“We’re looking at it very seriously again,” Meier said.
Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation, expects AIS funding to be a “top priority” at the Legislature next year.
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria and chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, agrees.
“I think it has to be,” he said.