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Asian bighead carp in captivity: The Minnesota Department Natural Resources is advocating a multi-organizational approach to stop their spread.

M. Spencer Green, Associated Press

Minnesota battles Asian carp

  • Article by: TOM LANDWEHR
  • September 27, 2011 - 7:34 PM

'The threat posed by Asian carp requires decisive strokes, not just treading water."

Those words did not appear in the Star Tribune, but in a Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper editorial recently excoriating the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Congress for not doing enough to protect the Great Lakes from the threat of Asian carp.

Here in Minnesota, however, we intend to do everything possible to stop the spread. Gov. Mark Dayton has made it very clear: We will take decisive strokes and not tread water.

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources hosted an Asian carp meeting. It was attended by more than 30 representatives of Minnesota's congressional delegation and federal, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canadian agencies.

We reviewed the DNR's seven-step action plan to stop the upstream spread of Asian carp in Minnesota.

Our Minnesota battle plan directs state and federal agencies to act immediately to limit the spread of Asian carp, and to work with the Minnesota Legislature, our congressional delegation, and our Wisconsin and Canadian partners to find and obtain the necessary funding.

It also calls upon Congress to give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers emergency authority to close either the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock or the Ford Dam if Asian carp are discovered nearby.

Earlier this year, the Legislature and governor agreed upon a bonding bill that appropriated $16 million to upgrade the Coon Rapids Dam on the Mississippi River.

The dam's improvements should make it nearly 99 percent effective in keeping Asian carp from passing farther north on the Mississippi River to other rivers and lakes upstream, including Mille Lacs.

Meanwhile, the DNR and a multi-organizational Asian Carp Task Force are hard at work collecting information on Asian carp populations and movements.

This summer and fall, the task force and DNR led an effort to use cutting-edge environmental DNA (eDNA) testing to look for Asian carp in the St. Croix, Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.

Additionally, DNR fisheries staff spent five days this summer using nets and electro-fishing gear to search for Asian carp in the St. Croix River.

The DNR also hired a commercial fisherman with experience catching Asian carp to spend another four days netting the St. Croix. No Asian carp were found.

The DNR is also committed to determining the effectiveness of a bubble and sonic barrier at the mouth of the St. Croix River. While this technology is untested on large rivers, it may give us a chance to stop or slow the spread of Asian carp on rivers without existing dams.

So far, these collaborative efforts are working to get a handle on the situation. Only one Asian carp -- a 27-pound bighead carp -- has been caught in Minnesota waters this year. That, however, is one too many.

The discovery of that invader in the St. Croix River last spring, along with positive eDNA tests in the same river this summer, means that we must intensify our efforts to prevent the further spread of Asian carp.

The DNR is now devoting more resources to the fight against Asian carp and other aquatic invaders than ever before. We need help from everyone -- the Congress, the Legislature, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the people of Minnesota -- to keep these ecosystem-ruining monsters out of our waters.

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Tom Landwehr is commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

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