MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Local political leaders have decided to close the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock to try to stop the spread of invasive carp.
We’ve been waging war against the invasive Silver and Big Head carp ever since they escaped captivity in the southern United States and began spreading into the wild. Decades later, the fish are migrating further northward, disrupting nature’s delicate aquatic balance.
“They are filter feeders and they eat just about everything, so they collapse the food chain,” Dr. Peter Sorensen, a fisheries biologist, said.
Sorensen heads the University of Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species laboratory where research is being done on a number of control measures, including bubble barriers and underwater acoustic barriers.
One thing is certain: Left unchecked, the spread of the invasive carp would seriously impact Minnesota’s $12 billion tourism industry.
“We’ve known for a long time that this is the single most important step we can take to stop the spread of invasive carp into northern Minnesota waters,” Tom Landwehr, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said.
The water infrastructure bill recently passed by Congress requires the Army Corp of Engineers to close the Upper St. Anthony lock to navigation. That will essentially keep the carp from swimming further upstream, and making their way into vital fisheries of northern Minnesota.
The lock closure is far cheaper than the $16 million being spent to fortify the Coon Rapids dam. Work continues to erect higher steel floodgates, which will create what will hopefully become an impenetrable second barrier to the carp.
“We can either stop the carp at this lock or watch them continue up the Mississippi and into Mille Lacs and the Crow Wing River and all the connected waterways north of the Twin Cities,” U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar said.
Shutting off the Upper St. Anthony lock will impact roughly three or four barges that pass through each day during the navigation season. The affected businesses that rely on the barges to transport heavy commodities will switch to truck and rail for transport.
But it’s not all barge traffic that will be impacted. A popular excursion boat business that once operated at Boom Island, has since relocated its operations just downstream, to Bohemian Flats.