Environmental groups appeal for action on Asian carp

Gov. Dayton plans third carp summit on Dec. 20

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
The end of river navigation for the winter and closure of the locks on the Upper Mississippi has a coalition of environmental groups appealing for action during the 120-day shipping lull.

Silver Asian carp leap into the air in a photo taken on waters south of Minnesota. These are the carp recent DNA testing suggests are moving upstream and perhaps have gotten above the Coon Rapids Dam. (Photo by DNR website)

More than a dozen groups such as the Izaak Walton League of Minnesota and Friends of the Mississippi River are calling on officials to create a short-term and long-term plan for combating Asian carp.
“Coon Rapids, we have a problem,” said Gary Botzek of the Minnesota Conservation Federation/National Wildlife Federation during a teleconference call on Wednesday, Dec. 14.
Just recently, several water samples taken above the Coon Rapids Dam on the Mississippi River tested positive for the presence of silver Asian carp DNA.
David Zentner of the Izaak Walton League said for 35 years Asian carp have been moving upriver from the south and the old models of containing the invasive species have failed.
Minnesota has the chance to try something different, he said.
One of the solutions the groups are calling for is the closure of the St. Anthony Falls lock in Minneapolis and Lock No. 1 at Ford Dam in St. Paul.
Irene Jones, Friends of the Mississippi River, styled permanently closing the locks, something that would require Congressional approval, a simple solution that gets complicated quickly. But closing the locks, she argues, would place an “insignificant” amount of additional truck traffic on the highways.
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, almost 1,500 commercial boats — a designation including tows, passenger, dry cargo, liquid cargo — went through the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock last year. Some 2,450 recreational boats also went through the lock.
So did about one million tons of shipping.
Fifth District Congressman Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, has expressed interest in carrying needed legislation in the U.S. House to close the locks, Jones indicated.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is not currently authorized to close the locks for reasons other than relating to navigation.
Activists look to find possible dollars for Asian carp prevention programs from Legacy Amendment funding and an expected bonding bill at the State Capitol next year.
Jeff Forester of the Minnesota Seasonal Recreation Property Owners said the groups are optimistic the spread of Asian carp, which he believes would savage the state’s economy, can indeed be held in check.
“The people are starting to get it. That makes me very hopeful,” he said.
The test results from water samples taken on the St. Croix River — some from above the dam on the river — should soon be in the hands of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton will hold his third Asian carp summit on Dec. 20.
Other groups backing Asian carp prevention measures include Anglers for Habitat, Audubon Minnesota – National Audubon Society, Clean Water Action, Fish and Wildlife Alliance, Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Minnesota Waters, Mississippi River Fund, National Wildlife Federation, St. Croix River Association and Minnesota Trout Unlimited.