‘Last best chance to stop the Asian carp’

Asian carp

I was quite impressed by the “Monday Report” newsletter on March 31, 2014 from Rick Nolan, U.S. 8th district representative from Minnesota.

The weekly email update from the congressman’s office was entitled: “Fishing Season’s Coming — Asian Carp Out of Luck.”

I’m all about spending time on the water, so that headline really got my attention.

Nolan is playing an important role in an effort to protect Minnesota’s Upper Mississippi River Basin and watersheds from an invasion of the devastating Asian carp.

Addressing the Asian carp situation comes as a Nolan-initiated amendment, and is part of a bill called the Water Resources Reform and Development Act.

With this being a large national bill, I’m simply focusing on an area of interest for all Minnesotans who have a stake in our state’s water quality.

The amendment would shut down the Upper St. Anthony Lock and Dam in Minneapolis in hopes of blocking the northward migration of the rough fish via the Mississippi River.

Nolan is a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee that crafted the WRRDA bill in 2013.

Having passed in both the House and Senate, he is optimistic that President Obama will sign the bill and make it law in the near future.

“It’s the last best chance to stop the Asian carp,” said Nolan in a video interview with Brad Pomerance of “Charter Local Edition”, which was attached to the newsletter.

This is an aggressive villain that threatens our treasured network of freshwater.

The Asian carp are not “nice guys.” In fact, I liken them to a gang of thugs.

There are several species that make up the Asian carp group, but two seem to be of primary concern to the DNR.

Ranging anywhere up to 100-pounds, and reproducing at alarming rates, the bighead and silver carp are on a mission to destroy all native species in their path.

Not only that, but the smaller silver carp can jump up to 10-feet out of the water, and is causing all kinds of safety issues for humans.

And, they are moving north!

The DNR’s website confirms that individual fish of each species have been caught around the Twin Cities and in the St. Croix River, but “no breeding populations have been detected in Minnesota waters.”

It makes little sense to belabor the miscalculations of introducing the Asian carp to North America in the first place. It’s like a nuclear meltdown; once it starts, there is no way to stop it.

Unable to go back and correct the mistake, the only thing to do is try to minimize and control the situation.

Nolan adds that “We want to protect the entire Mississippi watershed, which runs through all of northern Minnesota and is connected to all the great chains of lakes.”

The congressman, who grew up in Brainerd, Minn., knows the importance of sport fishing for both recreation and the economy. “It’s such an important part of our life up here, and a big part of our tourism and business.”

The bill would also expand the definition of “invasive species” to include animals as well as plant life. He says this is important because then “federal money can be used for both research and abatement.”

“We are really tuned into water,” Nolan said, and that Minnesota’s “freshwater may someday be more valuable than oil and precious metals.”

It should be noted that both Minnesota senators are also aware of this crisis, and have initiated or supported other related legislation.

Last year, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar proposed a provision in the Water Infrastructure Bill, and told the Mesabi Daily News that “Asian carp could be devastating to fishing and wildlife in northern Minnesota.”

Honestly, I’m not sure if closing the lock and dam will be successful in stopping an almost certain future infestation, but I like that we are trying to do something to stop these foreign and malicious creatures.

Only time will tell, but I surely appreciate the proactive efforts of representative Nolan, and our U.S. senators, for addressing the calamity that threatens Minnesota’s most valuable natural resource.

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• The Upper Mississippi River Basin encompasses much of north-central Minnesota and includes the Grand Rapids area.

• Most of the Iron Range falls within the Great Lakes Basin and flows to Lake Superior.

• Above of the Laurentian Divide, water flows north and is part of the Rainy River Basin.

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