Minnesota Joins Iowa Fight Against Invasive Carp

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By Ellen Kurt

MILFORD, Iowa (AP) — Minnesota is kicking in the final piece of financing for a $1 million electric barrier to keep Asian carp out of the Iowa Great Lakes and, subsequently, Minnesota's lakes.

Iowa's neighbor doesn't want the fish to use the Okoboji-area lakes as a waterway to several lakes in southern Minnesota that share the same watershed, The Des Moines Register reported Thursday.

"We certainly don't want Asian carp coming into southwest Minnesota" through the Little Sioux River watershed, said Ryan Doorenbos of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Minnesota's DNR provided the final $261,000 for the electrical barrier on top of the Lower Gar Lake dam.

"This is really good news," Iowa DNR fisheries biologist Mike Hawkins said. "It really does solidify our methodology on how to prevent these fish from getting a foothold."

The Iowa DNR provided $300,000 and a variety of lake associations, local governments and private donors pitched in $400,000 for a permanent barrier, Hawkins said.

Biologists say the carp swam over the top of downstream dams during last year's flooding on the Missouri River. Those dams normally protect the Iowa Great Lakes, home to a $230 million tourism industry. Biologists feared it had entered the glacial lakes via a creek.

A third of the Iowa Great Lakes' watershed is in Minnesota. There have been no reports so far of Asian carp in southwest Minnesota, Doorenbos said.

Commercial fishermen found dozens of Asian silver carp last spring in East Okoboji Lake and a couple more were spotted in Big Spirit Lake. The discovery sent local leaders scrambling to block any more of the fish from entering Iowa's lakes. Workers installed a temporary barrier in June.

Silver carp can reach over 50 pounds, tend to leap out of the water and have harmed boaters. Fishermen also found dozens of Asian bighead carp, which don't jump like silver carp, but compete with game fish for food. Many studies suggest the Asian carp won't reproduce in lakes because it prefers rivers for spawning.

Early preparations on the permanent barrier were under way Wednesday, and heavy machinery should be at the site next week, Hawkins said. The permanent barrier should be in place by mid-December. It will transmit electrical currents that cause fish to swim away. If they get too close, the barrier will stun them.

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