Minneapolis lock closure a victory in invasive carp war

The following article by Don Davis was published in the May 27, 2014 issue of the Pioneer Press.  It is interesting to note that the MPRB was one of the first organizations to urge the closing of the locks and it reduced the use of the locks by SkipperLiner which helped show that the locks were not needed.  Also in the photo below (on the left) is Liz Wielinski, president of the MPRB.

Minneapolis lock closure a victory in invasive carp war


Abby Pieper, vice president of Madden’s resort near Brainerd, tells reporters Tuesday that potential customers do not appear worried about invasive carp, because they’re confident state and federal authorities are taking care of the situation, including closing the St. Anthony Falls lock in Minneapolis. Also at the news conference, at the lock, was Sen. Amy Klobuchar, right. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Fighting a war means taking victories where they come, similar to Minnesota’s attempt to stop invasive carp from getting a foothold in the state’s waters.

Minnesota leaders gathered Tuesday along the banks of the Mississippi River near the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam, which will be closed within a year. When the downtown Minneapolis lock is closed, it will be much harder for the carp to make their way upstream and into northern Minnesota waters.

The group celebrated legislation that President Barack Obama has said he soon will sign, which includes the rare provision to close the lock.

“We need to protect our waterways, and that means closing these locks,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, with the concrete lock structure looming behind her across the river.

However, she and the other officials said that they were celebrating a victory in one battle, not the entire war. For example, the Minnesota and St. Croix rivers still remain unprotected, they said.

“The work is not done,” U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison said.

State Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said that he never thought Congress would approve the lock closing.

“This is the single most important step we can take to prevent migration into northern Minnesota,” he said.

The carp invasion began years ago when the fish imported from Asia accidentally got loose in Southern waters. Since then, the fish have been headed northward.

The danger is that the carp, which often arc out of the water when motorboats pass, eat so much that native species are starved out.

A poster near where Klobuchar and others talked showed a 110-pound, 4-foot-8 carp from a Missouri lake.

It is not just saving Minnesota native species that inspires the battle. Doing so also can save money.

Minnesota has a tourism industry that attracts more than $12 billion annually, with fishing and boating accounting for a third of that.

Fishing is “part of the Minnesota brand,” said Abby Pieper, an executive at Madden’s resort near Brainerd.

Madden’s resort, with 1,000 acres of peninsula, depends on native fish species, she said. Vacationers who use boats and kayaks depend on safe water, she added.

Pieper said people calling the resort are not asking about invasive carp because they have confidence authorities will win the war.

Klobuchar and Landwehr emphasized the need to continue research about how to stop the carp once and for all.

Although the St. Croix River system on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border is wide open to carp, Landwehr said that geography would make it harder for Asian carp to infest Minnesota River tributaries, although the river itself could harbor the fish.

When talking about the Mississippi, Klobuchar said some people think “we are closing the river down.” That is not so, she said, because the river will continue to flow over St. Anthony Falls, but Asian carp and other fish are unlikely to swim upstream.

Just two businesses still use the river upstream from the lock, and state and federal officials are working with them to find other transportation options.

Owners of tour boats and kayakers who used the lock have voluntarily stopped doing so.

The congressional bill closing the lock also contains provisions to help prevent more floods and rebuild from past floods. Klobuchar said communities getting money include Fargo-Moorhead and Roseau. Money to dredge Duluth harbor also is in the bill.