Blocking Bighead, Silver, and Other Invasive Carp by Optimizing Lock and Dams

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Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS): Big head carp (Hypothalmichthys nobilis)
Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix)
Project Location: Mississippi River (St. Paul, MN)
Project Start Date: 07/2014
Expected Timeframe/Duration: three years
Sponsoring Organization: Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund
Web Links:
Primary Contact: Dr. Peter Sorensen, Professor
University of Minnesota Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology

Secondary Contact: Dr. Daniel Zielinski, Post-Doctoral Associate
University of Minnesota Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology
Project Summary:

This project seeks to make explicit recommendations with (and to) the  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for optimization of all Minnesota lock and dams (#2 through #8) to block the invasion of Bigheaded carps while still serving USACE needs and having minimal effects in native fishes.

First, we aim to immediately block Bigheaded carps at Lock and Dam #8 (near the Iowa border) by identifying modifications to the gate operations to safely maximize velocities through the dam (higher velocities should deter Bigheaded carps) and installing an acoustic deterrent system, which has special promise but is inexpensive and safe, in its lock chamber. Next, we will work with the research arm of the USACE to determine the actual swimming capabilities of adult Bigheaded carps (which have never been formally studied but appear unremarkable), so that they can be factored into optimizing lock and dam function – the USACE does not want higher velocities than absolutely necessary because of risks associated with safety and scour.

We will also test various state- of-the-art acoustic deterrent systems, including water-guns, in a decommissioned lock chamber at Lock and Dam #1 (St. Paul, MN), to determine which might be most effective at repelling carps in a manner that is affordable and acceptable to the USACE and have minimal effects on native fishes. Finally, we will apply the swimming performance data collected with a statistical model of velocities in and around Lock and Dam #2 (Hastings, MN) and adapt a statistical model to identify modifications that might be made to gate operations for the Lock and Dam #2 through #8 in Minnesota to stop carp without causing scouring problems and having minimal effects on native fishes.

Modifying lock and dam function is a safe and cost-effective solution to the ‘Asian Carp’ problem while having minimal impact on navigation or native fishes (unlike proposed electrical barriers). This project is the first step of a larger plan by Dr. Sorensen to eventually improve all fisheries in the Mississippi River by improving how all Minnesota Lock and Dams function though a series of coordinated field and laboratory studies.