Aquatic Invasive Species


Costs of AIS


Asian Carp Zebra Mussels

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) is a subject that has for years been getting a lot of press coverage, and has certainly gotten the attention of the Minnesota State Legislature. That helps, but it’s not enough to solve the growing problem. At stake are the state’s $11 billion tourism industry and a cherished way of life for many voting Minnesotans. The DNR's Invasive Species Program was established in 1991. Today the DNR commits 25 FTEs and 150 seasonal staff to invasive species work. Beginning in 2015, the legislature has appropriated $10 million per year in Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Act.

It may sound like a lot, but the fact is that $10 million isn’t nearly enough. And because it isn’t enough, private citizens are spending their own hard-earned dollars to keep public waters healthy by paying for herbicidal treatments on lakes to control Curly Leaf Pondweed and Eurasian Watermilfoil. Local governments are also spending dollars to support Lake Improvement Districts (LIDs), which allow lakeshore property owners to tax themselves to combat AIS. Voluntary and local government contributions add up to more than $5 million over the last three years, according to a survey by the Minnesota COLA Collaborative, a partnership of COLAs (Coalition of Lake Associations) set up around the state to strengthen the voices of small, medium and large lake associations. And that $5 million is just a band-aid to manage Curly Leaf Pondweed and Eurasian Watermilfoil until the state figures out how to use public dollars to adequately protect public waters. Until then, AIS will continue to spread from lake to lake because there is a pervasive culture of unfettered access to lakes, and the current response by the state isn’t commensurate with the threat. If that weren’t enough, there is no known method to control the newest scourges to Minnesota’s lakes and rivers: zebra mussels, quagga mussels, spiny water flea, viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), and things lying in wait that scientists still don’t know about.

With ever-tightening state budgets and with costs rising each year, Minnesota – a state that is recognized as a leader when it comes to healthy water resources – needs to set up a permanent funding source for AIS that is guaranteed no matter what political winds may blow in St. Paul. There is not a $5 surcharge on watercraft registrations, and a $5 fee on non-resident fishing licenses, which generate about $3 million a year. Most AIS funding, however, comes from biennial general fund and Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund dollars.

Connecting a more substantial, permanent funding source to boats makes sense since boaters – most unknowingly – are probably the biggest cause of the spread of AIS throughout Minnesota. There are more than 800,000 registered boats in Minnesota, which is the highest per capita in the country. That’s one boat for every six residents. A $10 increase from $5 to $15 would raise approximately $8 million new dollars in revenue every three years to be dedicated to AIS management, education and enforcement.

Another option was to create a new AIS decal that would be purchased every year by all boaters using Minnesota waters. This would apply to residents and non-residents alike. That would admittedly be harder to track and administer, but it would also create a much bigger pool of money – maybe even enough to make some substantial progress in the fight against AIS.

With known, dedicated funding each and every year, the state can put together a long-term vision and a doable plan for dealing with AIS. The other alternative is that the state continues doing what it’s been doing and continues to lose the battle despite throwing millions of dollars at the problem.   

Asian Carp Action Plan

September 24, 2012

Check out the Asian Carp Action Plan, created in late 2011 by a task force that includes the National Park Service, the Minnesota DNR, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and more.

Click here for an update on recommended actions from September 2012.

AIS at the Legislature

At the state level, AIS legislation should be based on the following principles:

  • Preventing the spread is cheaper than eradication;
  • Once established, eradication of AIS is not likely so the focus should be on management;
  • Research into AIS is not new and may take many years to find even a partial solution; and
  • The most important thing to do now is to enact strategies that will reduce the risks of spreading AIS. These could include: 
    • higher penalties for spreading AIS;
    • increased enforcement of AIS laws; and
    • public education so that individuals are aware of the risks and take responsibility for actions that may spread AIS.

Contact your legislators today and urge them to consider these principles.

MCEA's ongoing effort to tackle the AIS challenge

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.
Learn more:
Check out these videos of Asian carp in action:


Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
26 East Exchange Street, Suite 206
St. Paul, MN 55101 | (651) 223 - 5969

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
26 East Exchange Street, Suite 206
St. Paul, MN 55101 | (651) 223 - 5969

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