After another big invasive carp discovery, will the DNR finally act on a barrier?

A hand holds an invasive silver carp out of the water.

Large numbers of invasive carp have been found congregating at Lock and Dam 5 for the second time in recent weeks. (Photo by D. O'Keefe, Michigan Sea Grant)

At the same time the Minnesota Legislature was ending its 2023 session without funding an invasive carp barrier, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was rushing a crew down to Lock and Dam 5 near Winona after an angler reported spotting invasive silver carp there.

In the choppy waters, crews saw high numbers of silver carp splashing and leaping as they attempted to swim past the dam, a sign of possible spawning behavior. A DNR staffer even told KSTP it was the most invasive carp they've ever seen jumping this far upstream

This lock is the very same location where the invasive carp deterrent system FMR urged lawmakers to fund would be installed — a proposal the DNR opposed, even as a record-breaking silver carp catch was reported at the spot in March.

Now, just weeks later, invasive carp have again descended upon the waters at Lock and Dam 5, with KSTP camera crews catching large fish leaping high into the air.

Even more recently, a June 1 Star Tribune piece spotlight claims from DNR leadership that "everyone wants the DNR to do something [about invasive carp] but no one wants to give the DNR any money." The columnist, Dennis Anderson, was quick to point out that the Legislature awarded millions of dollars in new funding for other projects the agency sought. Anderson also writes:

"The carp's presence — the second large pod at the dam in recent months — underscores the high stakes, and some would say slow-motion, approach the [DNR] has taken to preventing invasive carp from infesting the Upper Mississippi, the Minnesota and the St. Croix rivers and their tributaries.

An effort spearheaded by the conservation group Friends of the Mississippi River, joined by the angling group MN-FISH and others to establish a special deterrent system, or barrier, at Lock and Dam 5 intended to stop most invasive carp from establishing breeding populations upriver, was killed by the DNR in the most recent legislative session."

Read the full Star Tribune column here.

As FMR Executive Director Whitney Clark said in MPR News' June 8 coverage of the issue, the legislative session's outcome was a key missed opportunity to slow this urgent threat.

There's still time — but not much

What can the DNR do now, even after opposing the funding for a carp barrier?

It can wisely invest the $1.7 million the Legislature did appropriate for expanded carp prevention activities by prioritizing further engineering for a carp deterrent, spillway adjustments and native fish passage systems. If the agency acts without any further delay, this work could inform a new legislative funding request in just a few months.

To date, the agency hasn't demonstrated urgency. The DNR has been promising since July 2022 to begin a stakeholder engagement process and Invasive Carp Action Plan, but the agency took until last week to host its first meeting. 

With invasive carp again on Lock and Dam 5's doorstep, will the DNR act? Or will the agency continue to disregard established research without presenting any alternative plans to protect Minnesota's waterways?

Become a River Guardian

Sign up and we'll email you when important river issues arise. We make it quick and easy to contact decision-makers. River Guardians are also invited to special social hours and other events about legislative and metro river corridor issues.

Explore all of our Land Use & Planning updates.

Upcoming Events

Sunday, September 17 OR October 8, 2023 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Wellstone Center, St. Paul
Saturday, October 14, 2023 - 9:00am to 12:00pm
3M's oak woodlands, Cottage Grove
Saturday, October 28, 2023 - 9:00am to 12:00pm
Pine Bend Bluffs Natural Area at the Flint Hills Resources property
Ole Olson prairie, Mississippi River, Minneapolis skyline

Celebrate 30 years of FMR!

For our 30th anniversary, our wish is for you to join us in restoring, protecting and enhancing the Mississippi River.