Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but it is also home to miles of rivers, including two national park units—the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA) and the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, which meets the Mississippi at Hastings. Visitors to these national parks enjoy paddling, fishing and swimming. Combined, Minnesota’s waterways support a multi-billion a year fishing, boating, and outdoor recreation economy. However, after catching live Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi, there is no longer any doubt that this invasive species has advanced up the river into Minnesota—exposing new entry points by which the Asian carp can spread further north.
Asian carp are voracious feeders that quickly consume the small plants in rivers and lakes, toppling the ecosystem food pyramid and drastically reducing native fish populations. Dramatic changes to the Mississippi River ecosystem could impact migratory birds and other wildlife that depend on the diversity of available food in the river and its floodplain. One species of carp is renowned for their ability to jump as high as 10 feet out of the water, damaging boats and even injuring boaters. The potential of Asian carp to discourage boating and displace the prized fisheries of Minnesota will have serious economic consequences for the state and will impact visitors’ experiences in these two special national park units.
To combat this threat, NPCA is co-chairing the Stop Carp Coalition, with support from local partners representing conservation groups, anglers, marinas, and private property owners, to advocate for strategies that will help stop Asian carp from establishing a foothold in Minnesota.
On June 10, 2014, President Obama signed into law the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), which included two new tools NPCA has been advocating for that will aid in the fight against invasive Asian carp in Minnesota’s waterways.
One important provision in WRRDA will close the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock in Minneapolis within one year to help stop the spread of Asian carp further north of the lock and effectively protect thousands of miles of rivers and lakes upstream. While closing this lock does not protect the entire 72-mile stretch of MNRRA or the St. Croix River, which meets the Mississippi south of this lock, it is the best available strategy to prevent the northward spread of these invasive fish. NPCA applauds the leadership of both Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Keith Ellison who championed this strategy through bipartisan legislation in Congress.
The second key provision establishes a federal multi-agency task force, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which will coordinate federal efforts to combat the threat of Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River basins. This new federal focus, in addition to the state and local efforts already underway, will help ensure that resources at all levels of government will be brought together to address this threat. NPCA is grateful to Representative Betty McCollum for her leadership to champion this critical strategy in Congress.
While passage of this legislation is an enormous victory for NPCA, our work is not done. The coalition continues to advocate for funding to research this invasive species and install deterrents at lower locks along the Mississippi River to protect the St. Croix and Minnesota Rivers. A public education campaign is also underway to educate and inform Minnesotans on what they can do to help stop Asian carp from moving further north and protect the state’s rivers and national parks. For more information, please visit www.stopcarp.org.