Calling the state's attempt to curtail the spread of zebra mussels and Asian carp a "war" that unfortunately has become a part of life, University of Minnesota Prof. Peter Sorensen said Thursday that a proposed new research center at the U would give the state a fighting chance against what seems like an onslaught of aquatic invasive species.
"It's sort of now or never," Sorensen said at a State Capitol news conference announcing legislation offered by Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, to establish the university center. "I think people can now feel that someone is on their side."
The center's initial budget would be $3.8 million over two years.
"Aquatic invasive species, including the Asian carp, zebra mussels and others, are destroying Minnesota's lakes, rivers and fisheries," Carlson said, appearing alongside Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, and University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler.
"New ideas and aggressive technological approaches are needed," Carlson said.
If invasive species are going to be repelled from the state, or at least controlled, long-term funding will be needed, Ingebrigtsen said. "We can't keep coming up with one-time money," he said.
Renowned for his research of common carp, which have plagued Minnesota waters since the late 1880s, Sorensen believes control and possibly eradication of the species are possible.
Zebra mussels and the five species of Asian carp that seem likely also to bedevil the state represent another kettle of fish, Sorensen said.
"But every species has its weakness," he said. "Nothing's perfect. Even zebra mussels. There's a weakness there someplace."
The Clean Water Fund would be tapped for $1.8 million to pay for the center, with an additional $1 million coming from lottery money and $1 million from bonding.
Sorensen estimated an ongoing budget for the center of about $1 million and anticipates adding research scientists to the center's staff following a search that probably will be worldwide.
Some of Minnesota's most popular recreation and boating lakes are infested with zebra mussels, including Minnetonka and Mille Lacs.
Asian carp, including the leaping silver carp, have been found in Minnesota portions of the Mississippi River, and special DNA tests have detected them as far upriver as the Twin Cities.
Dennis Anderson • 612-673-4424