Gov. Dayton urges quick action in fighting Asian carp

Debate continues over control measure sites

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
Sources of potential funding and a dispute over where such dollars could best be spent surfaced during Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s third Asian carp summit on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at the State Capitol.
The state’s current two-year action plan for thwarting the advancing invasive species calls for the installment of a sound/bubble or electric barrier outside of the lock chamber at Lock and Dam No. 1, or the Ford Dam, on the Mississippi River in St. Paul.
It also calls for Congressional authority for the emergency closure of the Upper St. Anthony Locks in Minneapolis and/or Lock and Dam No. 1 to block Asian carp from advancing upstream — such Congressional authority was sought twice before by other states and failed, said a representative for Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minneapolis.
But Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, argued it made better sense to place a barrier at Lock and Dam No. 2 at Hastings than further upriver.
Placing a barrier in Hastings, he argued, would protect not only the Upper Mississippi River but the Minnesota River as well.
But Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said one reason the DNR technical team is focusing on the St. Anthony and Ford Dam locks is because the river there is better contained by the contour of the land.
Beyond this, the dam at Lock and Dam No. 2 is overflowed by the Mississippi River about every seven years.
The dam needed to be opened for 45 days last year, providing ample time for fish to move through, explained DNR Asian carp point man Tim Schlagenhaft.
“I know it’s a roll of the dice,” McNamara said.
As for the Minnesota River, Schlagenhaft said the DNR is studying dam placement on the river, the chances of protecting lakes with tributaries flowing into the river, possible “hinge points” on the Minnesota where Asian carp would likely to congregate and become susceptible to poisoning. The only possible barrier point on the river is at Mankato, he explained.
One Minnesota Department of Transportation official indicated that several million dollars of federal transportation funding could become immediately available for use for Asian carp prevention efforts at Ford Dam and the Upper St. Anthony Falls locks.
That’s because keeping the locks open and river barge traffic in motion, there will be no impact on highway transportation, he said.
Dayton repeatedly urged officials to move as quickly as possible in taking action against Asian carp.
“Where can we find $5.5 million in January? Or go home!” he said of quickly funding a barrier project.
Another time he chastised DNR officials for perceived smugness in immediately rejecting outside ideas. “Sometimes I find the DNR gets so narrow minded,” Dayton said.
Landwehr spoke of securing an additional $1.6 million in funding to maintain the Coon Rapids Dam pool level during planned dam repair. The state has already slotted some $16 million to upgrade the dam into a stouter fish barrier.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke of the need for state officials to formalize their Asian carp action plan, because it’s critical the state Congressional delegation have something to show federal agencies when they go to scouring Washington for funding.
Klobuchar also said it was critical the state’s delegation showed bipartisan support for legislation concerning the possible closure of Lock and Dam No. 1 and Upper St. Anthony locks.
Ellison could formally introduce a bill as soon as this week in the U.S. House.
Federal officials suggested possible alternatives to closing the locks, such as rescheduling lock operations for recreational boating.
It was suggested that a boat launch be built between the Ford Dam and St. Anthony Falls, thereby providing access to the Mississippi River by other means than the locks.