Keeping Asian carp out of Minnesota
They are big, they can fly, and they have come to Minnesota's waters. Last month, three different species of Asian carp including bighead, silver and grass carp were found in the Mississippi River near Winona. This is the furthest upstream that silver carp have been found and the first time that grass carp have been captured in Minnesota waters.
In the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," most Minnesotans will tell you that they can never seem to find enough fish, so why shouldn't we be welcoming Asian carp?
Because, like zebra mussels, these invasive species could destroy our lakes and rivers as we know them and harm our recreation and fishing industries that are important to our state's economy. Asian carp are voracious eaters that weigh up to 100 pounds and consume as much as 40 percent of their body weight daily.
These invasive species consume the plankton and vegetation our native fish need to thrive. Once native fish lose their foothold, Asian carp can take over an entire ecosystem. In parts of the Illinois River this has already happened and Asian carp make up an astounding 90 percent of the biomass in the river.
YouTube videos from parts of the country overrun by Asian carp show them flying out of the water into and over people's boats (you can check it out at: http://bit.ly/HQX3GF). These amazing videos illustrate the threat of invasive species to our lakes and underscore the need for immediate action, before it's too late and Minnesota becomes known as the "Land of 50,000 carp."
That's why I participated in the Asian Carp Summits that Governor Dayton convened, which brought together local communities, state and federal agencies, and research experts to examine promising technologies and strategies to fight the spread of Asian carp in our rivers and lakes.
After working with Governor Dayton, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and countless Minnesotans, I introduced bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by Senator Al Franken, in the U.S. Senate that would help kick-start the process to consider closing the upper St. Anthony Falls lock and require immediate closure of the lock if Asian carp are found. The bill, led by Representative Keith Ellison in the House and co-sponsored by Representatives Tim Walz and Erik Paulsen, would also direct federal agencies to partner with Minnesota on efforts to root out infestations of Asian carp in our state's waterways.
Minnesotans know that tough choices will have to be made to protect our lakes and streams and as usual, they are taking the lead to meet this challenge head on.
Earlier this year I visited the University of Minnesota's St. Anthony Falls Laboratory with Representative Erik Paulsen to look at the cutting-edge research they are developing to fight the spread of Asian carp. Under the leadership of Governor Dayton, the state has proposed a plan to put technologies like this into action and build the barriers that will help protect our waters. I will continue to work with Governor Dayton, local communities and agencies to help expedite the planning, permitting and construction of these barriers.
Earlier this month, John Goss, director of the Asian Carp Committee for the White House Council for Environmental Quality said this about our efforts to potentially close the lock: "It's just not that simple. Closing a lock can't just happen overnight." He makes a point, and that's why we must take action now to pass my legislation that would give the state the ability to take action when necessary. It's been done before, following the tragic I-35W bridge collapse; the lock was closed for more than two months and barge traffic was able to adjust.
Outdoor enthusiasts, research experts and YouTube videos have underscored what Minnesotans already know: We must protect our lakes and streams from flying fish that eat entire ecosystems. That's why I will fight to pass my legislation that will help make sure our lakes and streams continue to support Minnesota's recreational fishing industry that supports 40,000 jobs and generates more than $4 billion in economic impact.
Simply put, to amend an old adage: If you give a man an Asian carp, he'll eat for a week. But if we keep Asian carp out of Minnesota, he'll be able to fish for a lifetime.