Legislators, state officials debate strategy against invasive carp

Asian Carp
In this Thursday, Jan. 5, 2006 file photo, a bighead carp, front, a species of the Asian carp, swims in a new exhibit that highlights plants and animals that eat or compete with Great Lakes native species, at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium.
AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

The Department of Natural Resources ran into rough waters Tuesday when officials presented their plan to slow the spread of Asian carp in the Mississippi River.

Legislators and state officials continue to debate the best way to slow the spread of the invasive Asian carp. The DNR is recommending a combination of bubbles, noise, and light at Lock and Dam No. 1, also known as the Ford Dam.

Bubblers are considered less effective than electric barriers but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the lock, has been clear it would not approve an electric barrier for safety reasons, DNR officials said.

Steve Hirsch, director of the DNR's Ecological Resources and Waters Division says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,

Collecting water samples
In this photo taken in September 2011, National Park Service biologist Byron Karns, left, joined by Christina Wille and Stan Zobel, searches for traces of Asian carp near auxiliary lock at Ford Dam. The urgency to mount defenses against invasive Asian carp escalated when, in October 2012, the National Park Service said it had discovered silver carp DNA near Lock and Dam No. 1.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

"We can say, 'OK, we'll try it anyway, we'll spend a million dollars on the design when we know pretty well the answer's going to be no'" Hirsch said. "Or we can say 'let's take a look at what our next best alternative and see if that can be approved.'"

Some members of the House Environment Policy Committee strongly objected to the idea of a bubble, sound, and light array. They said it wouldn't be nearly as effective as an electric barrier.

Committee chairman Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, said he wants the most effective barrier possible.

"We're going to get in the engineers, get around a table and find out why their claims are different and try and flesh it out to the best of our ability," Dill said. "At some point we'll probably end up telling the department what they're going to do."

Any type of barrier would need to be considered experimental because there are no comparable sites with barriers operating, according to the DNR.

A review by the Army Corps will take at least six months, the DNR said.

• Follow Stephanie Hemphill on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mpr_hemphill

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.