DNR: Dam funding cut could let Asian carp spread

A Minnesota House committee has eliminated funding to rebuild a dam that officials say is the best option for stopping the spread of invasive Asian carp up the Mississippi River into many of the central and northern lakes.

The House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday removed $16 million in improvements to the Coon Rapids Dam from the state bonding bill.

Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said Thursday that if funding isn't restored, the state could lose its best window of opportunity for stopping the spread of Asian carp up the Mississippi.

"This is an extremely serious problem," Landwehr said.

Without the upgrades to the dam, which included raising the height of the dam, DNR officials say there will be no physical barrier to Asian carp migrating up the Mississippi into some of Minnesota's most popular lakes, upsetting the food chain and harming native fish and mussel populations.

"It's not an effective barrier now," Deputy DNR Commissioner Dave Schad said. "In high water times the fish could easily breech the dam."

Asian carp have been migrating up the Mississippi River basin since they escaped from southern fish farms, eating huge quantities of plankton along the way. Two species - bighead carp and silver carp - have become well established farther south in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. While there's no evidence they're reproducing in Minnesota waters, a few specimens have been found in them, including a 27-pound bighead carp caught on the St. Croix River on April 18.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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