Invasive carp barrier: A strong starting point, but Minnesota needs more — and soon

FMR staff testifies at Legislature on invasive carp + text: "#MNLEG Final Update"

FMR's Land Use & Planning Director Colleen O'Connor Toberman testified alongside Stop Carp Coalition partners and Dr. Peter Sorensen, the state's foremost carp researcher, on the urgency of the issue. Read how all FMR priorities fared this legislative session.

The pressing need to protect our rivers and lakes from invasive carp — and the statewide interest in the issue — presented a compelling case for action. While lawmakers did not advance FMR's full proposal, we're happy to say that at the end of a legislative session that included some unexpected twists and turns, we secured some initial funding that gets us moving in the right direction.

FMR sponsored legislation this session seeking $18.4 million for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to prevent invasive carp from traveling further up the Mississippi River and other connected waterways. The largest component of the bill was funding to construct a carp deterrent system (called a bio-acoustic fish fence) at Lock and Dam 5 near Winona.

We didn't get the full funding amount we sought, but we did make progress. 

The Legislature awarded $1.7 million in the environment omnibus bill for the DNR to expand invasive carp management and prevention (House vote: 72-57; Senate vote: 35-32). The DNR will have the final say in which efforts it funds with this money. However, we'll be urging the agency to invest some of it in further engineering for the Lock and Dam 5 carp barrier we proposed.

While it's not everything we'd asked for, we're pleased with this funding. And it was only possible with the support of some very dedicated legislators and advocates.

Now the question is, How do we get from this point to a carp barrier while there's still time?

The path to a carp barrier

It often takes multiple years to secure full funding for big projects, even in years like this with a uniquely large state budget surplus. As this spring's record catch of invasive carp right below Lock and Dam 5 makes clear, however, we don't have time for further delays.

Thanks to this session's progress, it's possible to keep this carp deterrent project on track. For that to happen, this year's funds would need to be used (at least in part) to support design work. And next session, lawmakers would need to award additional funds to construct and install the deterrent.

Sens. Foung Hawj, John Hoffman and Sandy Pappas, along with Rep. Peter Fischer, were vital to the movement we saw this year. We look forward to continuing our work together next session.

Advocates, including Stop Carp Coalition partners and FMR's River Guardians, were also essential. 

Nearly 1,000 Minnesotans from over 200 cities and townships signed our petition asking the state to act against invasive carp. Advocates attended hearings and meetings with legislators, sent letters and cards, and helped build a statewide sense of urgency. Media outlets across the state carried dozens of articles about this issue. (See a roundup of media coverage here.)

All eyes are on the DNR to act

The DNR's opposition to our invasive carp barrier bill made it more difficult to secure full funding for this essential project this session, and we're disappointed at the agency's lack of urgency to stop invasive carp in Minnesota.

Particularly in light of a fresh discovery of invasive sliver carp near Lock and Dam 5 during the waning hours of the legislative session. As KSTP reported, DNR crews had been out on the water since an angler spotted one of the carp Sunday. 

As for its opposition to barrier funding, the DNR has stated it won't support any new invasive carp prevention efforts until it has updated its Invasive Carp Action Plan. 

FMR and our Stop Carp Coalition partners have been asking the agency since 2020 to update this plan (which is woefully out of date) in order to address emerging science and new management options. 

The DNR has promised to do so by the end of this year. We hope it will spur the agency to submit its own funding requests next year for invasive carp prevention.

We'll continue to work with the agency, legislators, partners and community members to implement science-based carp prevention systems before it's too late for Minnesota.

Previous 2023 updates

Apr. 9: New path forward emerges for invasive carp barrier funding

After last month's successful invasive carp hearing, we were optimistic the Minnesota Senate Environment, Climate, and Legacy Committee would recommend full funding for a proposed deterrent.

Instead, the committee's recommendations included only $620,000 for invasive carp management activities and nothing for the barrier — a fraction of the $18.1 million needed to complete the entire carp deterrent project and related management activities.

Fortunately, Sens. Foung Hawj and John Hoffman have continued to champion our cause.

They helped us move most of our budget request into a potential bonding bill, which can be used to fund infrastructure projects such as our proposed carp deterrent. Importantly, the Senate Capital Investment Committee (with the support of the chair Sen. Sandy Pappas) has heard our bill for possible inclusion in their bonding proposal.

The House, at least so far, has been a different story. 

Our bill was never granted a hearing in any committee in that chamber, nor was any funding recommended for increased carp prevention efforts. 

We hope House leaders will ultimately agree to the Senate's proposed carp funding when the chambers negotiate together in conference committee. Even a substantial partial appropriation could help advance the carp deterrent project in a timely way, allowing work to begin while setting up the state to provide the remaining funds next year.

Time is of the essence

Funding decisions in a bonding bill will likely remain fluid until the end of the legislative session in mid-May. 

But the carp aren't waiting for the legislative process to play out. A recent record-setting silver carp catch just below Lock and Dam 5 in the Mississippi River underscores just how urgent it is for Minnesota to take decisive action right now. 

River Guardians have continued to be valuable advocates: sending emails to their legislators, contributing more than 900 petition signatures, attending hearings and meetings with their legislators, and spreading the word on social media. The Stop Carp Coalition's support, including bill endorsements from 16 organizations, has also been essential to building momentum for this project.

And with a long road ahead yet for us to get the funds we need this year for action against invasive carp, there's still time to help.

March 24: With invasive carp in the spotlight, FMR makes urgent case for barrier

It was an eventful Thursday in the effort to protect Minnesota’s waterways from invasive carp.

That morning, the Minnesota DNR revealed a record number of silver carp were recently caught in the Mississippi River just below Lock and Dam 5. 

As the news spread, FMR staff, River Guardians and partners stepped into a Senate Committee on Environment, Climate and Legacy hearing to talk about a solution: A carp barrier at Lock and Dam 5, the very location where the 30 silver carp had just been caught. 

Flanked by a pair of taxidermied invasive carp, FMR's Land Use & Planning Director Colleen O'Connor Toberman testified alongside Stop Carp Coalition partners and Dr. Peter Sorensen, the state's foremost carp researcher. (Watch the video of these presentations.)

That day’s news further underscored our belief that time is of the essence. Minnesota cannot afford to wait to take action that will protect our rivers and lakes. Read our full response.

“Right now, Minnesota has no plan to prevent a carp invasion. No state or federal agency has presented any alternative that anyone thinks will stop this takeover. The proposal before you today is the only option we have right now, and we don’t have time to wait,” O’Connor Toberman said, adding: “We will invest now, or we will pay more later. Those are the only two options these carp give us.”

River Guardians turned out to show their support too. That includes some young river advocates who came wearing bike helmets — demonstrating the safety gear they would need to boat on waters infested with silver carp. 

At the hearing, FMR also shared our petition demonstrating that hundreds of Minnesotans from nearly 200 different cities and towns are waiting and watching for action.

We're grateful to our lead author, Sen. John Hoffman, as well as committee chair and bill co-author Sen. Foung Hawj, for their support.

But we still don't have assurance that the Minnesota Legislature is fully committed to funding this urgent carp barrier project this session, because the House hasn't even given this bill a hearing. Use our form below to email your legislators, and urge them to take decisive action that will protect Minnesota’s waters.

News media puts spotlight on invasive carp

The hearing came just hours after the Minnesota DNR revealed an unprecedented haul of silver carp in the Mississippi River near Winona, with 30 of the fish caught Monday by a contracted commercial fishing operation.

“The catch shows that the invasive fish are on the cusp of becoming intractable in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and have been gathering below one of the last barriers left between them and the upper Mississippi, Minnesota and St. Croix rivers,” wrote the Star Tribune.

Meanwhile FOX 9 explained to readers and viewers, “Why capturing 30 invasive carp on Mississippi River near Winona is significant.”

KARE 11, MPR News, WCCO and KSTP also covered the announcement.

March 20: FMR's invasive carp barrier bill secures crucial first hearing

FMR's bill to fund an invasive carp barrier in the Mississippi River will get its first legislative hearing this week.

The Senate Environment, Climate, and Legacy committee will hear testimony on SF 2037 this week — helping to ensure a much-needed invasive carp barrier remains on the Legislature's radar in the weeks ahead.

Come to the Capitol to show your support

Attending the committee hearing is a good way for legislators to see how many people care about this issue (and based on our petition, we know it's a lot). We are encouraging River Guardians and other supporters to come show their enthusiasm for this bill! The meeting will be from 3-5 p.m. on Thursday, March 23, in room 1150 of the Minnesota Senate Building (95 University Ave. W, St. Paul). 

Participating is easy — all you have to do is sit and observe the meeting. FMR staff will be there alongside you, and we'll provide stickers for you to wear to show your support. (The Senate does not allow signs or props.) There won't be speaking opportunities at this hearing.

Please contact Grassroots Organizing Coordinator Maddie Miller (mmiller@fmr.org, 651.222.2193 x31) with any questions.

Can't attend? Sign our petition and we'll share the list of signers with the committee members. 

The growing list of bill endorsers now includes:

  • Conservation Minnesota
  • Fishing for All
  • FM Walleyes Unlimited
  • Friends of Pool 2
  • Friends of the Mississippi River
  • Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division
  • Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance
  • Midwest Marina Association
  • Minnesota Conservation Federation
  • Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates
  • Minnesota Trout Unlimited
  • Mississippi Park Connection
  • MN-FISH
  • National Parks Conservation Association
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Native Fish for Tomorrow
  • Stop Carp Coalition
  • Wild Rivers Conservancy

March 3: Invasive carp: Bill to build underwater barrier gains steam

Our bill to stop invasive carp from moving upstream into Minnesota is building momentum. The bill was introduced in both the House (HF 2389) and Senate (SF 2037) with a bipartisan list of co-authors. We appreciate Sen. John Hoffman and Rep. Peter Fischer's leadership as the lead authors on this important issue.

The bill would fund the design, construction and operation of a "state-of-the-art deterrent system" at Lock and Dam 5 in Winona, Minnesota. The system would include a continuous bubble wall coupled with an underwater noise system to deter invasive carp from passing through and moving up river. You can see an example of this type of system via this USFWS video. The legislation also includes funding for additional invasive carp management techniques and a native fish passage study.

When committee hearings for these bills are scheduled, we'll be asking our River Guardians to come fill the hearing rooms to show their support for this crucial bill. 

This legislation has garnered a long list of supporters and endorsers, including:

  • Conservation Minnesota
  • Fishing for All
  • FM Walleyes Unlimited
  • Friends of Pool 2
  • Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance
  • Midwest Marina Association
  • Minnesota Conservation Federation
  • Minnesota Division of the Izaak Walton League
  • Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates
  • Minnesota Trout Unlimited
  • Mississippi Park Connection
  • National Parks Conservation Association
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Native Fish for Tomorrow
  • Stop Carp Coalition
  • Wild Rivers Conservancy

We're also seeing a swell of support for action among River Guardians. Our petition urging decision-makers to act now to protect Minnesota's waters has garnered more than 570 signatures. 

Feb. 20: Plan to protect MN's waters from invasive carp takes shape

Minnesota needs to act — sooner rather than later — to protect its waterways from ecologically destructive invasive carp. The outline of legislation to do just that is now coming into form.

A bill in the Minnesota Senate (currently in draft form) would provide $16.4 million to the Minnesota DNR to install a carp deterrent system at Lock and Dam 5 in the Mississippi River. This system would use sound and bubbles to deter carp from passing upstream through the lock. It's almost impossible for carp to bypass Lock and Dam 5 any other way.

Lock and Dam 5, located near Winona, Minnesota, represents a critical point in the effort to slow invasive carp's northward spread. An effective deterrent there would protect Lake Pepin, the St. Croix River watershed, the Minnesota River watershed and other treasured Minnesota waterways for decades to come. 

In addition to this in-river deterrent, the bill would provide funding to the DNR for:

  • Fish tracking technology
  • Expanded fishing efforts to remove invasive carp
  • Associated staffing costs to manage the agency's work

Two University of Minnesota projects to further improve invasive carp deterrence at Lock and Dam 5 would also receive funding. One project would develop recommendations for adjusting the dam's spillway gates to reduce the risk that carp could swim through the dam in high-water conditions. The second project would study the feasibility of installing a native fish passage system at the lock to enhance the health of native fish and mussel populations currently impeded by the dams on the river.

We appreciate Sen. John Hoffman for serving as this bill's lead author in the Senate, and Rep. Peter Fischer for his lead authorship in the House. Co-authors are pending.

Invasive carp can outcompete native fish populations and degrade the aquatic ecosystem. Their presence also negatively impacts both tourism and recreation economies. The legislation is gathering grassroots support from a diverse list of conservation organizations, along with organizations and industry associations dedicated to protecting Minnesota's economy for hunting, fishing, boating and other activities.

Read more about the impacts of invasive carp here.

We expect the bill to be formally introduced in the near future, followed by committee hearing dates. The hearings will be an opportunity for experts, stakeholders and other members of the public to testify in support of the bills. We'll share these dates as soon as we learn them.

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, May 21, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Vermillion River Linear Park, Hastings
Thursday, May 23, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Riverside Park, St. Paul Park
Saturday, May 25, 2024 - 9:00am to 11:00am
Mississippi River Gorge Sand Flats, Minneapolis