2012 Invasive Species Action Alert

Action Alert: Stop Asian Carp and Zebra Mussels

Aquatic Invasive Species are on the march in Minnesota.  Last week three different species of Asain carp were caught by commercial fishermen in the Mississippi River near Winona; a grass carp, big head carp, and the dreaded silver, or flying carp.
Brainerd Dispatch

 

  • Environmental DNA tests this fall have signaled carp DNA in the Minnesota Rivers as far north as the Coon Rapids dam.
  • eDNA is a warning signal that carp have been in the area, but it is unlikely that the carp are established and breeding that far north.
  • Until now, no silver, or jumping carp have been caught as far north as Winona

Asian carp can destroy Minnesota's rivers and lakes ecology, tourism, fishing and recreation. Minnesota has almost 70,000 miles of interconnected rivers and streams; sport fishing in Minnesota is estimated to support 43,000 Minnesota jobs, and to generate $2,800,000,000 annually in direct retail expenditures, with an economic impact exceeding $4,700,000,000 per year.

  • In some  Illinois rivers invasive carp now comprise over 90% of the biomass
  • Boat motors frighten silver carp, causing them to jump out of the water.  Many boaters have been injured when hit with one of these fish, which can weigh as much as 60 pounds.
  • Asian Carp destroy fisheries, out competing other species
  • Asian carp lower property values - one county an estimated loss of 30%
  • Increase phosphorous levels, degrading water quality

Governor Dayton held three Carp Summits over the fall, calling for a comprehensive plan.

MSRPO, along with Clean Water Action, Minnesota Conservation Federation, National Wildlife Defense Fund, Izaak Walton League, National Park Service, Audubon Minnesota, Trout Unlimited, Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations, Friends of the Mississippi River and others have been working together to advance a plan to stop the spread of these fish up Minnesota's Rivers and hence to the thousands of lakes north, and to convince the Minnesota Congressional delegation and Minnesota Legislature to act today.  Last week an MSRPO Board member, along with other members of this coalition, traveled to Washington DC to meet with the Minnesota Delegation, asking them to push for emergency measures to stop the "flying" carp and protect Minnesota's rivers and lakes.

On March 6, introduced a bill that would kick-start the process to consider closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls Dam to help stop the spread of the invasive species, as well as require immediate closure if Asian carp are found. In addition, the bill would direct federal agencies to partner with Minnesota on efforts to root out infestations and prevent the spread of Asian carp in the state's rivers. Klobuchar and Ellison authored the bill in the Senate and House, respectively, and Franken, Paulsen, and Walz are original cosponsors. The legislation is supported by Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"The spread of Asian carp in our state's rivers would have a disastrous ecological impact and harm Minnesota's recreation and fishing industries that are so important to our state's economy," Klobuchar said. "It is vital that we take action to stop the spread of this invasive species, and this legislation will help the state protect Minnesota's waterways."

"The threat of the Asian carp has been well documented....  This bill is an important first step in combating this invasive species and I'm proud that we've come together as a Congressional delegation to take decisive action and to protect our environment and our economy," said Ellison.

"We're very pleased with this legislation. The discovery of a silver carp in the Mississippi River near Winona last week enforces the need for faster action, and we believe this legislation is the kind of action we need to protect our waterways," said Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

At the State Level

The same day that the Asian Carp was caught near Winona, Governor Mark Dayton published a prescient Op-Ed in Outdoor News, writing, "The first step, which is gaining the most attention, is the need to construct deterrent barriers and slow the carps' migration... at Lock and Dam 1 (Ford Dam) and Upper St. Anthony Falls."

The Legislature has approved funds to retrofit the Coon Rapids Dam to make it a more effective barrier.   The Governor continued, "The Legislature is currently considering several funding options using state bonding or the Outdoor Heritage Fund to pay for engineering and construction of one (or more) additional barriers. Funding is critically needed in this legislative session if we are to make the necessary progress."

Zebra Mussels Action

Last session MSRPO members with a broad coalition of COLAs and Lake Associations, joined with the DNR and legislators from both sides of the aisle to push the most comprehensive AIS legislation in two decades.  Together we proved the coordinated grass roots action, when combined with professional advocacy at the capitol, can achieve great things:

  • Western Regional Panel definitions adopted
  • Inspectors empowered to order inspection/decontamination
  • AIS laws express condition of operating watercraft in MN
  • Conservation officers empowered to set up check stations for AIS
  • AIS funding doubled to about $8 million for 2012/2013
  • Required AIS training for water service providers
  • Control of AIS may be required of fishing tournaments

In January, before the 2012 Legislative Session began, MSRPO co-sponsored a Legislative Summit on AIS with the Becker COLA, Pelican River Watershed Dist. and the Lake Detroiters Assoc.  Over 400 people attended and 12 legislators.  At that event keynote speaker Dr. Darby Nelson, past legislator, professor, writer, member of the Lessard Sams council, and Conservation Minnesota Board member, said: "You and others like you across the state have significantly moved the AIS agenda forward ... lobbyists and constituents play very, very important roles... Jeff and his organization... play a crucial role in Saint Paul influencing lake policies... help Jeff in his lobbying effort by joining his organization or at least contributing some money toward that cause.  It is an extremely important effort."

2012 Legislative Effort

Despite last year's success, more needs to be done.  Last summer over five new lakes became infested with Zebra Mussels.  We could have open water in a few weeks, yet Minnesota still lacks a comprehensive and effective statewide plan to control AIS spread.  Funding is short and research lacking.  Events over the summer and the recent court case involving a Fargo  man, George Wynn, 54, who launched a zebra mussel infested boat lift into un-infested Rose Lake after a bystander pointed out that zebra mussels were attached to the equipment. Wynn pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, and received a wrist slap - $500 in fines and $500 in restitution.  The state paid $18,000 to apply a chemical treatment in an attempt to keep Rose lake clean. Rose Lake lovers are forced to wait and see if the treatment was effective.

This case, and other events, illustrate the need for further legislative action in 2012:

  • Authority to remove docks/equipment already in the water
  • Increased control of water related equipment as it is moved around the state
  • Increased penalties for violation
  • Reliable source of funding for ongoing AIS containment and control
  • Increased funding for research into AIS solutions
  • Creation of a comprehensive statewide plan to contain AIS like carp and zebra mussels

There are bills in both the House and Senate, sponsored by the respective Environment Committee Chairs Rep Denny MacNamara and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, that meet some of these goals.  But there are also some problems with the legislation as it stands at present.

Problems With Funding

Funding in the current legislation comes mainly from an increase in the AIS surcharge on boat registrations from $5 for three years to about $20 for a three year license.

This fall, MSRPO conducted a survey looking at a wide variety of issues. The survey was conducted with SurveyMonkey with about 250 respondents. There was broad support for increasing the AIS surcharge, 83% among respondents.

But there was also a strong statement that all Minnesotans should be involved in helping to protect our public lakes and rivers from these invaders.

Slightly more than half, 52% of respondents, voted for the Legacy Amendment, and the same percentage believed that a portion of the money "would be going to 'protect, enhance and restore,' lakes."  A whopping 91.2% felt it was appropriate to use Legacy Funds to help stop the spread of AIS.  When asked if the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by the 3/8ths of one cent sales tax increase was being wisely spent, 10.3% said yes, 42.5% said no, and 47.2% didn't know.

Lack of a Comprehensive Statewide Plan

We need to::

  • Establish a Blue Ribbon panel of experts from other parts of the world who have had success containing and managing AIS, and develop a statewide plan
  • Without such a plan we will be unable to best leverage any money we spend on this problem
  • The legislation creates an exclusion for ice fishing with regards to transporting water via bait buckets.  Zebra mussel larva, veligers, can survive temperatures of zero degrees.  Pull-the-plug must apply to ice fishing on zebra mussel infested lakes as well
  • The current legislation empowers the DNR to shift the financial, enforcement, decontamination and legal liability to local units of government and/or the tribes.  Without a strong financial commitment from the state, local units may be forced to raise revenue in their jurisdictions, increasing property taxes and creating a patchwork of measures.

Research

There is a great need for research into effective ways to control and eradicate Aquatic Invasive Species. A number of bills are up that would provide funding to develop an aquatic invasive species research center at the University of Minnesota.  We strongly support the funding of AIS research.  All areas of the world are now confronting aquatic invasive species issues to some degree, and there is no reason that the University of Minnesota could not create the "Honeycrisp Apple" of AIS solutions, creating a great benefit to the state and the University.

Action Alert - ask your legislators to take action to stop AIS spread

Use this link to take you to media outlets in Minnesota.  A letter to the editor carries a lot of weight with legislators.  ClickHERE for resources to get you started.

 

 

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