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Closing of lock hailed as victory in fight against invasive carp

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The closing of the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock on the Mississippi River still needs President Obama's signature to become official. But policymakers and resort owners were already celebrating the move Tuesday and calling it an important step in the fight to stop the spread of invasive carp.

The Associated Press reports the water infrastructure bill passed by Congress this month will close the lock in Minneapolis later this year.

At a gathering near the lock U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said "We can either stop the carp at this lock or watch them continue up the Mississippi [River] into Mille Lacs, into Crow Wing River, and all the connected waterways north of the Twin Cities," the AP says.

In U.S. waterways where silver carp and bighead carp have gained a foothold, they've crowded out native fish with their voracious appetites. The biologist who leads the University of Minnesota's Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, Peter Sorensen, tells WCCO “They are filter feeders and they eat just about everything, so they collapse the food chain.”

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MPR News says President Obama is expected to sign the bill that includes the lock shutdown soon. The network also notes that Congressman Keith Ellison reminded Minnesotans they'll need to do their part in the fight against invasive carp: "If you get your minnow bucket and carry it above the lock, that will undermine all the work we've done" to close the lock and stop the carp, Ellison said.

The decision to close the lock is a precaution against the spread of the carp. The carp have been climbing the Mississippi and their eggs have been found near Minnesota but no reproducing population of the fish has been confirmed in the state.

 Forum News Service reports a vice-president of Madden's Resort near Brainerd was on hand Tuesday to underscore the importance of the invasive carp issue to the state's $12 billion tourism industry.

A small segment of that industry is being affected by the decision to shut down the lock at St. Anthony Falls. The Star Tribune spoke with the founder of Above the Falls Sports, which has been operating kayak tours on the Mississippi since 2009.

Bob Schmitz tells the newspaper he stopped using the locks two years ago at the request of the Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service. He says those agencies have now asked him to also stop using a downstream lock near Minnehaha Falls. But he is not complying with that request, telling the Star Trbune “It is such an absolutely great way to learn about where we are and where we have come from in Minneapolis.”

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