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Congress close to approving Minnesota Asian carp barrier

ST. PAUL — Congress appears set to approve a pair of provisions that could stop, or at least slow, the Asian carp invasion of Minnesota waterways.

In the House-passed water bill are provisions to close the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock on the Mississippi River within a year and to better organize government efforts to stop the carp invasion.

A bill senators passed earlier includes similar provisions, so supporters are optimistic they will become law.

“Asian carp not only pose a serious threat to Minnesota’s environment, they also threaten the recreation and fishing industries that play a key role in the state’s economy,” said U.S. Sen. Klobuchar, D-Minn.

The lock Klobuchar wants to close is in Minneapolis at a location where there is little barge or boat traffic that needs to pass through it.

State and federal officials have discussed several ways to keep fish from going through the lock, including an electrical device. But they say the best way to stop the carp is to close the lock.

The lock is far enough upstream that it would not protect the Minnesota River, which dumps into the Mississippi. Experts so far do not have a firm plan about how to keep carp from swimming into the Minnesota.

A second barrier is the Coon Rapids dam, a few miles upstream from St. Anthony, which is undergoing an upgrade designed to help stop the fish.

If Asian carp get through the barriers, they would be able to move into most northern Minnesota rivers. The fish can eat huge amounts of food, taking it away from native species.

Besides the St. Anthony closing, Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., sponsored provisions to increase local, state and federal cooperation to stop the carp.

“Local and state officials are trying to tackle Asian carp, but they can’t do it alone,” McCollum said. “This amendment directs federal agencies to work in partnership with city, state and regional efforts to confront the spread of Asian carp.”

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.