Notebook: Congress close to approving Minnesota Asian carp barrier

By Don Davis

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. Amy 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.”

Coleman honors Wellstone

U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone’s campaign opponent when he died in an airplane crash 11 years ago honored the fiery Minnesota Democrat on the crash anniversary Friday.

“Whether you agreed or disagreed with Paul, he believed enough in the power of ideas to be respectful of the difference of opinions of others,” wrote Norm Coleman, who was elected senator to replace Wellstone days after the crash. “He never stopped believing in the innate goodness of all people and the capacity for all people, regardless of their station in life, to make a difference in the world around them.

“That was the most beautiful gift of Paul Wellstone, and I wish his presence were with us today.”

Coleman, a Republican, posted his comments on his Facebook page.

Eken to answer

A northwestern Minnesota state senator will use Twitter to promote his plan to raise funding for disabled and elderly services.

Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, will answer questions about his plan from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. Tweeters should use the hashtag #support5 to ask questions and follow the discussion.

Eken wants the Legislature, due to return to St. Paul on Feb. 25, to increase rates 5 percent for community-based disability and elderly services such as home health care. The effort will come during what is supposed to be a nonbudget legislative session.

The rate increase would allow higher pay for those to provide home- and community-based services. Supporters of the Eken proposal say their cause has been cut for years and did not receive an increase during this year’s session.

The 5 Percent Campaign, backer of the Eken plan, suggests the Twitter event be used by supporters to learn how to best advocate for the higher rates.

Officials want better meals

State, school and other officials served breakfast to Duluth schoolchildren to hammer home the point that it is important for children to have good meals.

“Currently, only 40 percent of low-income Minnesota kids eligible for free or reduced-price breakfast are being served,” Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon said. “Poor nutrition does not only impact health, it also impacts how our kids do in school.”

The state and Hunger-Free Minnesota, the Midwest Dairy Council and Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota are working together to encourage schools to get more eligible kids in the free and reduced-price breakfast program. Schools in the top 30 of the breakfast program will receive a dime for every new breakfast served beyond last year’s numbers, which could bring thousands of dollars into some districts.

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