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At Itasca State Park, Klobuchar highlights invasive species fight

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and state Rep. Roger Erickson, DFL-Baudette, listen to Itasca State Park naturalist Connie Cox as they walk a trail Tuesday, July 1, 2014, near the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Klobuchar visited the headwaters to highlight the recent passage of her bill to close the St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam in the Twin Cities, thus limiting the northern spread of invasive silver carp up the Mississippi. BEMIDJI PIONEER/Zach Kayser

ITASCA STATE PARK, Minn. -- Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., visited the Mississippi Headwaters at Itasca State Park on Tuesday to highlight the national fight against the spread of environmentally harmful silver carp up the river.

Klobuchar showcased one victory in particular: the act of Congress that recently closed the St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam in Minneapolis and helped deny the carp access to the lakes and rivers north of the dam that support millions of dollars in tourism.

The measure, which Klobuchar authored in the Senate and President Barack Obama signed June 10, was necessary because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the lock.

The carp, which Klobuchar said can grow up to 100 pounds, can destroy the natural fish population of a particular body of water if they're allowed a foothold.

"When they invade a lake or a river, they literally become 90 percent of the biomass," she said. "They've ruined many a lake further south ... and we want to make sure they don't come up to beautiful northern Minnesota and ruin the fishing industry up here."

Closure of the lock was especially urgent because carp DNA was found only tens of miles away, Klobuchar said. Thus, Congress gave a year deadline to close it without any studies beforehand, she said.

The bill did not give a tighter deadline in order to allow sufficient time for scrap metal barge operators and the Army to prepare for the closure, Klobuchar said. The Corps of Engineers has already worked with the scrap metal companies to get the lock down to about two openings a day, she said.

The lock may be reopened in the event of an emergency or if the silver carp are turned back, she said.

The next step for the federal government is additional anti-carp delaying tactics like more lock closures or barrier installations, Klobuchar said, but the final victory won't come until researchers develop a method of eradicating the carp.

"The ultimate solution, though, is going to be finding a way to kill these carp without killing other fish," she said. "That's what we have to do."

Klobuchar was joined by state Rep. Roger Erickson, DFL-Baudette, who talked about the Legislature's recent move to add funding to the University of Minnesota's Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and funding to local anti-aquatic invasive species programs. Erickson said the Legislature fulfilled MAISRC's funding needs for the time being, but if the center requires more money in the future, the Legislature will provide it.

"Whether it's the lottery money, Legacy (Amendment) money or right from the state Legislature, whatever they need, we'll make it happen," he said.

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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