Invasive carp vs. waterways

Folks from Minnesota have managed to do what others in the fight over Asian carp are still aiming for — close a lock.

Tucked into the recently passed Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRDA) of 2014 (Sec. 2010) is the mandatory closing of Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam MM 853.9 on the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities.

The timetable for closure is not more than a year after the legislation becomes law. St. Paul district U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Patrick Moes couldn’t say exactly when that would be since it has to be coordinated with other Corps projects.

“Minnesota must win the battle to keep invasive carp out of our waterways,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who pushed for the provision, said in a statement. “Closing this lock represents an important step in that fight.” The state natural resources commissioner, an anti-carp coalition, and boating, fishing and tourism industry interests supported the move, the statement said.

Whether this is the only closure remains to be seen. The conference report with the legislation said the concerns at this lock “are unique, not representative of other projects on the nation’s inland navigation system” and should not be used as precedent.

“While we are disappointed by the closure of the lock on behalf of businesses located upriver and concerned about the social and environmental impacts the community will face, we appreciate the conferees’ commitment to ensuring that the unique conditions surrounding this closure will not affect the future management and reliability of America’s economically essential inland waterways transportation system,” Craig Montesano, legislative affairs director for the American Waterways Operators (AWO), said in an e-mailed statement.

Ed Welch, legislative director of the Passenger Vessel Association (PVA), said it was a bad idea for Congress to close part of the federal waterway system.

And the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association earlier said shutting the lock would “immediately eliminate 127 jobs and result in an annual loss of more than $40 million in wages and output.”

The Upper St. Anthony lock, in operation since 1963, handled 821,200 tons in 2013 compared to 686,500 in 2009, according to the Corps.

The biggest battle over the menacing fish has been the Chicago area where some want to permanently separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River Basin.

Carp in the lakes would threaten the $7 billion fishing and tourism industries. But severing the waterways would cost the barge, passenger vessel, chemical, agricultural and other industries billions as well.

The Corps has installed electronic barriers in the area to try to stop the fish from reaching the lakes. 

About the author

Dale K. DuPont

Dale DuPont has been a correspondent for WorkBoat since 1998. She has worked at daily and weekly newspapers in Texas, Maryland, and most recently as a business writer and editor at The Miami Herald, covering the cruise, marine and other industries. She and her husband once owned a weekly newspaper in Cooperstown, N.Y., across the alley from the Baseball Hall of Fame. A South Florida resident, she enjoys sailing on Biscayne Bay, except in hurricane season.

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