Coalition Urges Solution to Protect Minnesota’s Waters from Asian Carp
A broad coalition of sportsmen, environmentalists and property owners called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) and other state and federal agencies Dec. 14 to begin the process of securing a permanent solution to stop the northward advance of Asian carp into Minnesota waters.
On Dec. 5, 2011, the locks on the upper Mississippi River closed for the winter months. This yearly routine winter closure provides an opportunity to create both a short and long-term way to keep Asian carp out of Minnesota waters. As an immediate, first solution, the coalition is asking that Lock #1 remain closed after ice-out 2012 until a modified lock operation plan can be put in place as an interim measure. Such a measure might include limited lock hours combined with effective preventative technology to reduce the northward advance of these invaders.
“Last week the locks were closed,” said Irene Jones, river corridor program director of Friends of the Mississippi River. “No carp are moving into the upper Mississippi River. The locks should remain closed until a plan is in place that continues to block the carp’s advance.”
Known to batter boaters and even knock them into the water at the sound of a passing motor, Asian carp are voracious filter feeders that can grow to more than 4 feet long, weigh up to 100 pounds and quickly dominate a body of water by gobbling up the same food that sustains native fish populations.
Earlier this summer, positive eDNA tests of Asian carp were detected in the Mississippi, Minnesota and St. Croix rivers near the Twin Cities. A silver carp was also caught in pool 9 this summer. Further elevating the urgency of this crisis, on Dec. 8, MN DNR officials announced that positive eDNA samples indicated that silver carp are above and below the Coon Rapids Dam.
“Needless to say we were very disappointed to hear about the eDNA findings that indicate silver carp above the Coon Rapids Dam,” said Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation. “These new findings just put a capitol ‘E’ in Emergency in terms of closing the lock at St. Anthony and testing and treating the waters above Minneapolis for a long time,” he added.
In a letter dated Nov. 16, the coalition asked Gov. Mark Dayton to make it a goal of his administration to prevent the introduction and spread of Asian carp in Minnesota waters and beyond to the Dakotas and Canada. Gov. Dayton asked a task force of governmental agencies and a coalition of nongovernmental organizations to put forth recommendations aimed at meeting this goal.
“These fish are threatening Minnesota’s lake districts up to the Red River and Canada,” said Jeff Forrester, executive director of Minnesota Seasonal Recreation Property Owners. “The potential cost in loss of recreation and property values is almost incalculable.”
“Asian carp represent a clear and present danger to Minnesota’s waters and our way of life,” said Marc Smith, senior policy manager with National Wildlife Federation. “We strongly encourage state and federal officials to immediately develop and implement action plans designed to stop carp from further spreading north.”
“This is our chance to show the nation that we can be successful in stopping these invaders,” said Dave Zentner, with the Izaak Walton League.
The coalition plans to present a more detailed action plan to Gov. Dayton Dec. 20. This plan calls for a permanent solution to this crisis and establishes short-term priorities to be enacted before ice-out 2012, mid-term priorities to be completed over the next six to 18 months, and long term priorities for over 18 months.
“The waters of Minnesota could be forever changed but we have the opportunity to put a stop to it now,” said Darrell Gerber, program coordinator at Clean Water Action Minnesota. “It will take resolve but we can’t let failure be an option.”
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Coalition Members include—Anglers for Habitat, Audubon Minnesota—National Audubon Society, Clean Water Action, F-M Walleyes Unlimited, Fish and Wildlife Alliance, Friends of the Mississippi River, Izaak Walton League of Minnesota, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Minnesota Seasonal Recreation Property Owners, Mississippi River Fund, National Parks and Conservation Association, National Wildlife Federation, New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen, St. Croix River Association, and Minnesota Trout Unlimited.