By Don Davis
Fighting a war means taking victories where they come, like Minnesota’s attempt to stop invasive carp from getting a foothold in the state’s waters.
A few dozen Minnesotans gathered Tuesday along the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, near a lock what will be closed within a year. When the lock closes, it will be much harder for Asian carp to make their way upstream and into most northern Minnesota waters.
The group celebrated a congressional bill President Barack Obama says he will sign soon that includes a rare provision to close a Corps of Engineers lock.
“We need to protect our waterways and that means closing these locks,” Klobuchar, D-Minn., said, with the concrete lock structure looming behind her across the river.
However, she and other officials said, they were just celebrating a victory in one battle, not the entire war. For instance, they said, the Minnesota and St. Croix rivers still remain unprotected and without a lock like at St. Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis it will be much tougher to keep invasive carp out of those two rivers.
“The work is not done,” U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., 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,” Landwehr said.
The carp invasion began years ago when the fish imported from Asia accidentally got loose into southern United States waters. Since then, they have been swimming northward.
The danger is that the carp, some of which can jump out of the water, eat so much that native species are left with little.
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. It also can save money.
Minnesota has a tourism industry that attracts more than $12 billion annually, with fishing and boating a third of that.
Fishing is “part of the Minnesota brand,” said Vice President Abby Pieper of Madden’s resort near Brainerd.
Madden’s resort, with 1,000 acres of peninsula, depends on native fish species, she said. People using boats and kayaks depend on safe water, she added.
Pieper said people calling the resort are not asking about invasive carp because, she said, 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.
While the St. Croix River system that touches the east part of the state 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 not likely to swim upstream.
The closed lock, which could reopen if needed, essentially returns the falls to how they were before then-Sen. Hubert Humphrey convinced Congress to build the lock about 50 years ago.
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 using it.
The congressional bill closing the lock also contains provisions to help prevent more floods and rebuilt from past floods. Klobuchar said communities getting money include Fargo-Moorhead and Roseau. Money to dredge Duluth harbor also is in the bill.