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Carp-stopping dam plan killed in Minnesota House committee

A move by the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee eliminating funding for a carp-stopping dam at Coon Rapids on the Mississippi River has drawn sharp criticism from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Asian carp
Asian carp (2010 file / Associated Press)

A move by the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee eliminating funding for a carp-stopping dam at Coon Rapids on the Mississippi River has drawn sharp criticism from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The suburban Minneapolis dam was set to be refurbished under a $16 million project that designed to stop the northward movement of Asian carp, one of the most troublesome invasive species moving into Minnesota waters.

The Republican-controlled committee cut the dam project out of the construction-bonding bill Wednesday night, with no public input. On Thursday, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said that, without the improvements to the dam, there will be no physical barrier between Asian carp now in the lower Mississippi and hundreds of lakes across Minnesota that connect with the river.

"This is an extremely serious problem," Landwehr said in a statement. "The Coon Rapids dam is our current best option against Asian carp for inland waters of this state. If we don't act today, with funding that legislative committees had already recommended, we could lose the window of opportunity to stop this invasive fish that is wreaking havoc in other states."

Asian carp were first imported to the U.S. 40 years ago to clean commercial fish farm ponds but escaped into the Mississippi River system. Several varieties have flourished in the river and have moved up the Illinois River system to threaten the Great Lakes at Chicago.

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Only a few have been found as far north as Minnesota, with the most recent finding in the lower St. Croix River.

The fish are filter-feeders, removing tons of tiny organisms from the food chain, robbing native species of needed food. Some varieties grow to 100 pounds, while others are famous for leaping out of the water at the sound of boat motors.

The dam has the support of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton but the governor can't add items into the bonding bill -- he can only zero items out.

Related Topics: ENVIRONMENT
John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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