by Ron Hustvedt, Jr.
Asian Carp are advancing into Minnesota as I write this, spreading into the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers to wreck all sorts of havoc on native fish populations and create new dangers for recreational boaters.
There’s an article on the Star News website (http://erstarnews.com/2011/08/30/asian-carp-present-longterm-challenge-to-state-officials/) about Minnesota’s efforts to control Asian carp but something that I wanted more detail about was the impact it would have on points north of the metro area.
What’s that mean for all of us on what’s known as the Upper Mississippi River? The honest answer is that nobody knows.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Bighead and silver carp are voracious eaters, capable of eating 5 to 20 percent of their body weight each day. Asian carp feed on algae and other microscopic organisms, often outcompeting for food with native fish. Scientists believe the fish could severely disrupt the aquatic ecosystems of Minnesota waters.
The Coon Rapids dam is the best barrier for preventing the spread of the carp into the northern stretch of the Mississippi River. Oh yeah, and if you aren’t a river angler just remember that some of your favorite lakes are connected to Old Man River. Lakes like Gull, Crow Wing, Winnibigoshish, Leech, Cass, Bemidji and all the lakes attached to those (plus more).
Here’s the problem with the Coon Rapids dam: it’s only rated as 89 percent effective at preventing the spread upstream. A recent study of the dam revealed that number and also revealed that $16 million of updates and repairs would make it 99 percent effective.
As ineffective as the Legislature was this past session, at least they passed the bonding to make that happen. Now, the DNR (who received that bonding money) needs to sit down with Three Rivers Park District (who owns/manages the dam) and finalize the plan.
For some insight on the talks, I had a good email chat with Jason McGrew-King who is the Intergovernmental Media Relations Coordinator for Three Rivers Park District. He said, “We’re looking forward to discussions with DNR representatives taking place soon, and we’ll be providing updates to the Park District Board of Commissioners as project details are discussed. Feel free to check back with me this fall for additional updates, or you can view Board meeting agendas and listen to archived audio recordings of meetings online.”
The link he gave for those details is: http://www.threeriversparks.org/about/board-commissioners/meeting-archive.aspx.
I hope they get their butts in gear soon because what we don’t need is a big project that finishes just in time to be too late at being effective. Hopefully these governmental entities move faster than the carp are spreading! I encourage you to contact both Three Rivers Park District and the Minnesota DNR (as well as your Legislators) and encourage them to get on the ball and get this project rolling.
In my opinion, Asian carp are going to be so much more detrimental to our fisheries than any other evasive species we are currently contending with the possible exception of the fish-killing virus known as VHS, which has yet to get here but it’s close too.
I realize that it’s “fashionable” these days to bash environmental types and multi-million dollar government programs but we need to move beyond the politics of divisiveness and obstructionism. The funding is there, the details need to be finalized, the public needs to apply the pressure. Not too complicated at this point, but will it be done in time?
That’s your call. Make it!