As the legislature moves into it’s final throes dealing with taxes, the Viking stadium, and a bonding bill, we do know what funding was approved for the Asian carp threat. You may remember that $16 million was made available in last year’s bonding bill to include a barrier in the overall repairs to the aging Coon Rapids dam. The dam’s height was to be raised for a more effective barrier against carp, but no construction has yet commenced, and the DNR has indicated that more money may be needed to do the job.
Professor Peter Sorenson, of the University of Minnesota, said that DNA evidence has indicated that silver carp are existing above the Coon Rapids dam, although none have been caught. Professor Sorenson’s aquatic invasive species research center to study prevention of carp, zebra mussels and other invasives was funded in the Legacy bill, with $1,800,000 from the Clean Water Fund and $2,000,000 in redirecting Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund money. The money is a start to hire three research professors, a specialized fish technician and necessary lab equipment.
Sorenson is skeptical that any increase in the Coon Rapids dam barrier, or even barriers in general, will stop the Asian carp from continuing upstream. He is very interested in looking at various “bio-bullets”, essentially creating genetically engineered diseases that target Asian carp and other invasive species.
Also, as part of the Legacy bill, $7.5 million was made available to the DNR to evaluate and construct barrier deterrents to the Asian carp threat. These could be bubble or electronic barriers that might be used at the Hastings lock and dam, or the two lock and dams below that site to protect the St. Croix. There seems to be some early success in the Chicago area on the Illinois river and canal with a electronic barrier in preventing carp from reaching the Great Lakes. The above $7.5 million must be matched 1 to 1 if any of the money is used on boundary waters. So Wisconsin dollars, or federal monies, must also be appropriated if barriers are constructed on any locks and dams below Hastings.
Senator Klobuchar and Congressman Paulson have introduced a bill in Congress to temporarily close the lock and dam at St. Anthony Falls to serve as a barrier to Asian carp. This would help any upstream movement on the Mississippi, and even be stronger if it included the Ford dam, but it leaves the St. Croix – a great river fishery -vulnerable. The U.S. Corps of Engineers claims that congressional approval is necessary to close any of the lock and dam system along the Mississippi.
What is heartening is that serious money is being appropriated now to do something about the significant Asian carp threat. There is also the realization from our politicians in Washington and those at home, including Governor Dayton who has had several meetings on this subject, that serious measures must be looked at and taken so Minnesota’s nationally known fishery resource stays intact and vital.