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