A popular leisure cruise will no longer travel through locks beside the Stone Arch Bridge as part of a city effort to ward off Asian carp.
The Minneapolis Park Board voted Wednesday night to stop Paradise Cruises from using the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam. The change is part of an effort to scale down use of the lock, which may be eventually closed altogether to prevent Asian carp from reaching northern Minnesota.
The vote came after Mayor R.T. Rybak took the rare step of vetoing a previous Park Board resolution that would have allowed Paradise to continue normal operations until the state or federal governments blocked lock activity. The Board needed to take an action because Paradise's permit had expired.
"It is clear we cannot wait for congressional action," Rybak said in his veto letter. "To their credit, a number of non-profit organizations who in the past have used Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam, have now voluntarily stopped doing so in order to decrease the chance of Asian Carp infestation."
The Sierra Club said in a letter to the Park Board that Paradise Cruises constitutes 34 percent of all lockages at the Upper St. Anthony Falls -- about 800 last year.
Wednesday's action does not preclude Paradise from using the Lower St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam, which is a poor fish barrier.
The rest of the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock use is largely industrial. Aggregate Industries uses the locks every day to bring in sand and gravel, while Northern Metals ships scrap metal down river. The city also operates a port near 38th Ave. N, which Rybak would like to close.
Closing the locks altogether would require an act of Congress. Minnesota's congressional delegation has introduced legislation to authorize closure if Asian carp are found north of Hastings.
The Paradise Cruises website says the lock cruise includes "sights of historic downtown Minneapolis" and a "narrated tour complete with a lock through the largest lock on the Mississippi River, at St. Anthony Falls, while viewing the new 35W bridge!"
Board president John Erwin praised Paradise for their willingness to limit lock use.
"They are going to experience a hardship by doing this," Erwin said. "Its something that they are doing voluntarily, that they could have argued against and disagreed with us on."