Exciting progress in our pursuit of an invasive carp deterrent

A close-up of a taxidermied invasive carp, with the blurred Minnesota Capitol building in the background.

This legislative session, FMR is once again pursuing funding to install a deterrent at Lock and Dam 5 in the Mississippi River.

FMR’s pursuit of an invasive carp deterrent crossed a significant — and exciting — threshold this week thanks to an unexpected source of funding. 

Minnesota’s Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund (LSOHF), which is funded through the Legacy Amendment, received more money than the Outdoor Heritage Council planned to allocate this year. This meant there was $12 million in funding available, with the money being distributed as early as July 1, 2024. 

The DNR, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, submitted a proposal to use these funds for an invasive carp deterrent known as a Bio-Acoustic Fish Fence (BAFF). This deterrent would be installed at Lock and Dam 5, the last stop for invasive carp before they reach the metro area.

FMR and the Stop Carp Coalition worked hard to build support for this proposal, and it is with great enthusiasm that we can share it paid off. 

On March 26, the council unanimously approved $12 million in funding for construction of an invasive carp deterrent at Lock and Dam 5. Read more about the move in the Star Tribune and via MPR News.

The following week, FMR Land Use and Planning Director Colleen O’Connor Toberman continued making the case for a deterrent to the House Legacy Finance Committee. With a carp beside her, Colleen laid out the stakes:

“Today, we have no barrier against invasive carp for anything downstream of Minneapolis,” she told the committee. “This leaves 175 miles of Minnesota’s Mississippi River exposed to this imminent threat, along with Lake Pepin, the Minnesota and St. Croix rivers, and countless other connected waterways.”

After highlighting the cost effectiveness of a deterrent, as well as the important partnership between the Minnesota DNR and federal agencies that would be involved with the project, Colleen urged the committee to support the council’s recommendations to fund a carp barrier.

“When a deterrent is combined with other management efforts already underway such as aggressive fish removal programs, tagging and tracking, ongoing research, and adjustments to the lock and dam’s spillway gates, research suggests that we could achieve a carp blockage rate of 95% or more,” she said.

Watch video of Colleen’s full testimony above, courtesy of the Minnesota House of Representatives video archives.

What does this mean?

By now, you’re probably well aware of the risks invasive carp pose to the Mississippi River and other connected bodies of water. 

This funding is a huge win for our work on invasive carp. It means preventing invasive carp from establishing themselves any further upstream is finally within reach. As renowned fish biologist Dr. Peter Sorensen told the Star Tribune, Minnesota could become the first state in the country to actually stop carp from gaining a toehold in its waters.

Once the council’s recommendations are approved by the Legislature, the DNR will work closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey to assess who will take the lead on the project. These agencies, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Wisconsin DNR, have all stated their support for this effort.

Fortunately, since the funds will be distributed on July 1, 2024, that work should be able to start sooner rather than later.

Next steps

We know we aren’t finished just yet. The Minnesota Legislature still needs to approve the Outdoor Heritage Council’s recommendation to fund this project, and Gov. Tim Walz needs to sign the bill into law.

We’ll be sure to keep our advocates updated as this process moves forward.

Thank you, River Guardians and FMR partners

Every letter, email and advocacy valentine (which you can see in the Instagram post above) sent to legislators asking for their action on invasive carp has made a difference. From the more than 1,000 advocates who signed our petition, to the River Guardians who sent in countless action alerts, to community members who packed meetings to discuss this issue — we could not be more grateful for your efforts. 

We’d also like to thank our Stop Carp Coalition partners and champions at the Legislature. For their leadership and ongoing support on this issue, thank you to Sens. Hawj, Dibble, Hoffman, Lang, and Pappas; and Reps. Burkel, Fischer, and Lillie.

We are so thankful to all of you for your advocacy for the river. 

Prior updates

Feb. 13: It's BAFF time: The deterrent MN needs to stop invasive carp

If we do nothing about invasive carp in the metro Mississippi River, it isn’t a matter of if they’ll get here, but when. With record-setting catches by the DNR over the past 12 months, that day seems to be coming sooner rather than later. 

This legislative session, FMR is once again pursuing funding to install a deterrent at Lock and Dam 5, though with a key difference from last year’s proposal. We’ll also be urging the DNR to support funding for the barrier this session.

Lock and Dam 5 near Winona is a critical point in the effort to slow invasive carp’s northward spread. Should a deterrent be installed here, it would protect Lake Pepin, the St. Croix River watershed, the Minnesota River watershed, and other Minnesota waterways. It is also the lock on the Mississippi River in Minnesota that is best suited for the construction of this type of deterrent. 

What exactly is a carp deterrent? The deterrent system we’re advocating is known as a bioacoustic fish fence (BAFF). It uses 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. 

This year, we’ve worked with researchers and engineers to bring the project cost down in hopes of making this easier for the Minnesota Legislature to fund in a year with tighter budgets. This more affordable system will cost about $8 million to build and install. Given that some states with more advanced carp infestations spend over $10 million each year on managing their problem, an upfront investment in a preventative deterrent makes better fiscal sense. 

We hope that these efforts to prevent invasive carp from moving upstream, combined with additional fishing and other alternative efforts from the DNR, will continue to protect the Mississippi River — and so many connected waters — for all. 

We appreciate Sen. Foung Hawj for serving as the bill’s lead author in the Senate. A bipartisan list of co-authors is coming together. 

Watch video of our Invasive Carp Community Action Meeting, held Jan. 30 in St. Paul.

Upcoming Events

Saturday, April 20 - 9:30 AM to Noon
West River Parkway and 36th Street/44th Street, Minneapolis
Applications due Friday, May 3 by 5 p.m.
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Wednesday, May 8, 2024 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
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