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Minneapolis Outdoors Columnist: Six Steps to Solve Carp Problem

February 14, 2012Patrick NunnallyUncategorizedComments Off on Minneapolis Outdoors Columnist: Six Steps to Solve Carp Problem  Usually when you read something like “six steps to…” the word “easy” is included.  To his credit, Dennis Anderson, the outdoors columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, does not say that these are easy or simple.  Still, a recent column outlines six things that Anderson argues must be done if Minnesota’s waters are not to be overrun with invasive carp.

Here are Anderson’s steps, followed by my comment.  My summary of his points is only my summary; read his full column to get the depth of his views.

  1. The state must appoint a statewide invasive species leader (what some might refer to as a “czar.”    Such a position would undoubtedly bring focus to an effort that crosses a number of state agencies and will involve local government units like watershed districts, counties and local park boards.  But persuading the public (and the politicians who nominally work for them) that an expansion of government authority is necessary will be a tough sell.   Writers like Anderson and agencies such as the National Park Service can be important parts of a public education process that helps make the Mississippi River as important to Minnesotans’ self-identity as “cabins up north.”  When we care enough about the Mississippi to press for changes in how it’s managed, then many of the other steps will go more smoothly.
  2. Minnesota’s Congressional delegation must become more involved.  The US Army Corps of Engineers has managerial authority over the locks and dams on the Mississippi, including the Ford lock and dam and the two at St. Anthony Falls.  It takes an act of Congress to change the management of the locks, to impose, for example, restrictions on lock opening that might slow fish passage.  But as Paul Labovitz, Superintendent of the local National Park Service unit, says:  “Congress acts every day.”  Congress won’t move on this, though, unless local Representatives Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum make the issue a priority.  See previous comment about the relationship between an informed, energized public and action by elected officials.
  3. State level elected officials must decide during the present legislative session what the state’s position on elective closure of the locks will be.  The Corps of Engineers is a federal agency, which can act at the request of local units of government, but the state is a primary player in this discussion as well.  Understanding how the three levels of government can work together to minimize the potential damage from changes in lock activity is a complicated planning and policy question.
  4. State leaders need to assess very clearly the costs and likelihood of success of proposed electronic fish barriers.  This is a state issue because the state’s Legacy Amendment funding and the lottery-based funding of the Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) has proved to be the readiest quick source of funding to implement short term actions against the invasive carp.  But the benefits from the proposed installation, and whether or not to increase funding if needed, need to be very closely understood.
  5. The state (DNR) and federal agencies (Corps) need to reach agreement on the use of eDNA testing as a diagnostic method for determining the presence of invasive carp.  eDNA is touted as an “early warning signal” that the fish are present before the populations grow to be completely unmanageable.  Problem is, the state and federal agencies utilize different protocols and standards for eDNA testing.  Science meets policy and planning again.
  6. The proposed invasive species center at the U of M needs to become a reality.  I couldn’t agree more, as I have written previously.

These six steps point to the inevitable connections between science, policy and community engagement in solving a problem as complex as invasive species on the Mississippi River.  Science is good at telling us what might happen when/if the fish get here, and may be, with enough research horsepower, good at telling us how to keep them at bay, or eliminate them.  But science can never tell us what we ought to do, or ought to want.  That realm, the normative world where societies agree on what they want, and on the means to go about achieving those ends, is the world of policy, planning, and of community engagement.   Our “river stories,” those narratives and images that define a 21st century relationship to the Mississippi River, must include our sense of what we will do collectively to ensure a healthy and regenerative river free from invasives.

Science.  Policy.  Engagement.    Learning.  Doing.  Seeing.  River Life


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