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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published March 08 2012

Minnesota lawmakers consider long-term invasive species fight

ST. PAUL – Minnesota legislators are considering launching a long-term fight against invasive species such as Asian carp while at the same time trying to stop fish and other species already in the state.

State lawmakers may also ask their federal counterparts to begin funding programs to stop an invasion that many say could threaten Minnesota’s tourism and fishing industries.

“We want to get beyond the reactive stage and get to the proactive stage,” said Peter Sorenson, a University of Minnesota fish scientist whose proposal to build an aquatic invasive species research center is key to the legislative proposal.

Experts say various types of stop-gap Asian carp barriers being considered will not fully stop the advance.

“At best, we can slow these things down,” said Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, sponsor of the research center proposal that gained its first committee approval Thursday.

“Without this quality research going into place … all of our best efforts at deterring just aren’t going to matter,” he said.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, who heads the Senate Natural Resources Committee, said the plan would spend nearly $4 million to open the center, which Sorensen said would not be operating for up to three years.

Ingebrigtsen’s committee approved another Carlson bill, a request that Congress immediately spend money to expand the fight against Asian carp, zebra mussels and other invaders.

Conservation groups said bills five members of the Minnesota congressional delegation introduced this week are promising.

The bills would encourage closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls Dams in Minneapolis, and require its immediate closing if Asian carp are found in the area. The closure would be an attempt to stop the fish from moving further upstream.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

“The spread of Asian carp in our state’s rivers would have a disastrous ecological impact and harm Minnesota’s recreation and fishing industries that are so important to our state’s economy,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said. “It is vital that we take action to stop the spread of this invasive species, and this legislation will help the state protect Minnesota’s waterways.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers indicates that it needs to study the situation and could not close the dam or locks this year. Carlson’s resolution requests action in 2012.

Executive Director Gary Botzek of the Minnesota Conservation Federation said the fight cannot wait.

“Asian carp provide a clear and present danger to Minnesota’s vast natural resources,” Botzek said.

Asian carp DNA has been found in the Twin Cities area and a week ago three of the carp were caught in the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota.

Natural resources officials fear that once carp establish colonies in Minnesota rivers, they will spread throughout the state.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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