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Outdoors, environment groups see 120 days to stop carp

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ST. PAUL -- Federal and state officials have 120 days to act against destructive Asian carp that could infest most Minnesota waters, a coalition of outdoors and environmental groups says.

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"I don't think it is anything we should tolerate," Jeff Forester of the Minnesota Seasonal Recreation Property Association told reporters in a Wednesday conference call. "Asian carp are not compatible with the Minnesota way of life."

The call was in response to last week's news that silver carp DNA has been found in the Mississippi River upstream of Coon Rapids, in the northwestern Twin Cities areas, and the fish may be on the move into northern and western Minnesota waters.

The coalition urged federal and state officials to close a Mississippi River lock in St. Paul, establish a barrier between Iowa and Illinois and prepare a "carpicide" to kill fish already here.

The St. Paul lock is closed for the winter, but scheduled to reopen next spring. The coalition of about 15 groups recommends that it remain closed, or only open occasionally, until the carp advance is stopped.

Dave Zentner of Duluth, an Izaak Walton League leader, said he would like to see an electrical barrier built. Calling such barriers "fairly effective," Zentner said one is working in a Chicago canal.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials have discussed a barrier that uses bubbles to keep carp from moving upstream, but Zentner said bubble barriers still allow 20 percent to 30 percent of the fish to get through.

Dams and locks remain the best prevention, Zentner said.

The Minnesota Legislature has approved $16 million to upgrade a dam at Coon Rapids, partially to stop carp.

Silver carp DNA has been found upstream of the Coon Rapids Dam, which state officials assume means carp are there and moving toward streams and lakes north and west of the Twin Cities on the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Also, there is concern along the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Irene Jones from the Friends of the Mississippi River was optimistic that even if carp are beyond the Twin Cities, they may not be in numbers large enough to take over northern Minnesota waters. If that happens, carp could eat enough food that it would kill off native fish.

While the coalition is working with the Minnesota congressional delegation on legislation that would help slow the carp advance, such as closing locks, Jones said: "I don't think we are there yet."

Gov. Mark Dayton plans his third invasive species summit in recent months on Tuesday.

DNA from two types of Asian carp have been found in Minnesota waters: silver carp that can weigh 60 pounds and are known for jumping out of the water, and the bighead carp, which can weigh 100 pounds. The related blackhead carp remains south of Iowa, but is advancing north.

The carp were brought into the southern states in the 1970s, but escaped their ponds and have been moving north since then.

Don Davis reports for the Bulletin and other Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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