Feds ready to mothball St. Anthony Falls lock to keep out invasive carp


The U.S. government is ready to put a padlock on the lock at St. Anthony Falls to keep invasive carp from climbing further up the Mississippi River.

As the Pioneer Press reports, a provision to close the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock in Minneapolis was included in a bill that emerged from a conference committee on Capitol Hill Tuesday and appears poised for Congressional approval.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar led other Democrats in Minnesota's Congressional delegation in hailing the move as a way to protect northern Minnesota waters from silver and bighead carp, which have crowded out native fish as they've spread through U.S. waters. Silver carp (right) are known for leaping as much as 10 feet out of the water, particularly when disturbed by the vibrations of motor boats.

The Pioneer Press says Upper St. Anthony Falls is the least-used lock operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Even so, the Corps says that in 2013 more than 1,100 boats passed through the lock, including commercial tows hauling more than 800,000 tons of commodities.

The idea of closing the lock has been floating around Washington since last year but was stalled in a conference committee that spent six months haggling over an $8.2 billion water infrastructure bill, the Star Tribune reports.

The logjam was finally broken, though, and now that it has emerged from the conference committee the Star Tribune says a Senate vote is likely this week and a House vote next week.

The Fargo Forum reports the bill also authorizes more than $800 million for a flood diversion project for the Fargo-Moorhead area. While the bill does not guarantee the diversion money, it allows the request for federal funding to move forward, the Forum says.

Closing the lock at St. Anthony Falls would be a precautionary step in the fight against invasive carp, because the fish have not reached that far upstream yet. But they are marching up the Mississippi. In March scientists found their eggs near Lynxville, Wisc. That's about 20 miles from the Minnesota state line and is 250 miles farther north than they'd previously been found.

The Upper St. Anthony Falls lock opened in 1963 and is the northernmost lock on the river. It lifts boats 49 feet. It has a visitor center and is open for tours ... but you'd better book one soon.

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State and federal officials are pushing a bill in Congress that would close the lock and dam at St. Anthony Falls if the invasive fish is found nearby. They say if Asian carp get any farther up the Mississippi River, they would threaten Minnesota's $11 billion tourism industry.

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The Army Corps of Engineers wants authority to close the lock and dam at Minneapolis' St. Anthony Falls at a moment's notice if invasive carp are found nearby. Supporters of the idea include the Minnesota DNR and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who say stopping the migration of Asian carp up the Mississippi is needed to protect northern Minnesota waters.