Upper St. Anthony Falls locks to close to prevent silver carp sp - KMSP-TV

Upper St. Anthony Falls locks to close to prevent silver carp spread

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The threat of invasive carp is one that is not lost on leaders in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. In fact, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison announced a major change to prevent their spread.

The silver carp, also known as Asian carp, can wipe out a healthy lake because they are capable of eating between 20 and 120 percent of their body weight each and every day, outcompeting the native fish populations. Now, big-name politicians are praising the decision to close the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock within the next year in an attempt to make sure that doesn't happen.

“With our environment and economy at stake, Minnesota must win the battle to keep invasive carp out of our waterways,” said Klobuchar. “We need to do everything we can to stop the further spread of this invasive species and closing this lock represents an important step in that fight.”

Videos of the jumping silver carp have gone viral, but it's a phenomenon most would prefer not to see in Minnesota waters. That's what politicians hope to achieve by closing down the lock.

"The St. Anthony Falls, before the lock was put in, was a natural fish barrier," Darrell Gerber, of the Stop Carp Coalition, said.

Silver carp have been caught near Winona, Minn., and bighead carp -- which can grow up to 100 pounds -- have made it as far north as Hastings.

"They eat an incredible amount of food," Gerber said. "They just take away the food that all the other fish depend on."

It's not just the Mississippi River that they're worried about either. The river is connected to some of Minnesota's most popular sporting lakes, including Lake Mille Lacs and Gull Lake.

"Once they're there, they're a really big threat to an incredible fishery -- the walleye fishery up there," Gerber warned.

Brian Lark, who likes to fish the Mississippi River, told Fox 9 News he ears he may have spotted some of the aquatic hitchhikers near the Ford dam.

"There's just no stopping them," he lamented. "They're going to make it. Wherever they go, they're going to make their way through. If they can get up this far and they can survive the winter in Minnesota, it's over."

To prevent the invasive carp species from getting any farther upstream, a bipartisan group of politicians has decided to close the Upper St. Anthony Lock for good within the next 12 months; however, it is possible that it could still be used for flood control.

"I think there is still going to be a lot of figuring out of what does 'closed' mean," Gerber admitted.

In addition to stopping the fish from migrating any farther north, the plan will shot off the river to commercial boat traffic -- including two businesses near the port of Minneapolis.

"Unfortunately, they should close it," fisherman Terrill May said.

Yet, some argue that the lock is only being used a fraction of what was ever predicted. Closing it would save the Army Corps of Engineers about $1.5 million annually.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is still moving forward with its plan to install an electric barrier near the Ford Dam -- but those aren't 100 percent reliable.

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