From Asian carp to zebra mussels, aquatic invasive species (AIS) have been all over the news recently for the threats they pose to Minnesota’s waters. AIS is a catch-all term used to describe the hundreds of non-native species that have the potential to successfully invade, become established, and harm the ecology of Minnesota’s waters. The effects of AIS range widely from a public nuisance when they displace native species (e.g., curly-leaf pondweed) to the potential to restructure a lakes entire food (e.g. zebra mussels), to the potential to infect and kill large numbers of fish (e.g. VHS virus). Some AIS, like common carp and curly-leaf pondweed have been in Minnesota for more than 100 years. Others, like eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels, are more recent invaders but have demonstrated the capacity to spread quickly.
MCEA has been strategically engaged in AIS issues for many years. The goals of our approach to AIS are to effectively reduce the risks of new introduction of AIS to Minnesota and to reduce the risk of new introductions within the state. In 2008, given the immediate threat of viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) MCEA sued the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) for their failure to regulate the more than 6 billion gallons of ballast water discharged annually into Lake Superior. In the same year, the district court ordered the PCA to regulate ballast water discharge under their permitting authorities. In 2009, MCEA submitted detailed comments on the Coast Guard permit related to ballast water discharges in the Great Lakes.
That same year, the state of Michigan and several environmental groups sued EPA to force establishment of numeric effluent limits. and got a settlement in 2012. In 2013, the EPA issued a new vessel general permit (VGP) with those numeric limits, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) issued it's own general permit. The new permits were nevertheless weak in several respects, the litigation started again, and in October 2015, the Second Circuit overturned it.
For the past two years, MCEA has participated in a number of ongoing important dialogues about AIS among conservation, environmental, and sporting groups. Key among these is a group of Minnesota non-profits that are actively working to prevent the continued introduction of Asian carp in Minnesota. This group has established three primary objectives: stop the spread above lock #1 on the Mississippi River, reduce the passage of Asian carp at the lock and dam at Keokuk, IA, and to control any Asian carp that have become established upstream of Keokuk, IA. To achieve these objectives the group is working to support the ongoing efforts of Governor Dayton and to educate the federal delegation on the issues in order to get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the authority to take needed actions.
MCEA will continue to be engaged in efforts in the state that align with our AIS goals. This past year, after a major lobbying campaign by MCEA and its allies, Congress passed an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act to close the lock at St. Anthony falls. We will also support efforts to implement strategies that effectively reduce the risk of the introduction and spread of AIS in Minnesota and increases in general fund appropriations and user fees to fund AIS prevention.
Check out these videos of Asian carp in action: