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“They’re looking at it more as an economic issue,” said Marc Smith of the National Wildlife Federation, part of a coalition trying to stop the spread of carp. “There’s no precedent for closing a lock for an invasive species.”
‘Chain on the dog’
That does little to diminish the concerns of Al Christopherson, a southern Minnesota farmer who leads the Upper Mississippi Waterway Association, which represents barge companies and other industrial users.
“You know the old saying: Once you get the chain on the dog, then after that the only difference is the length of the chain,” he said.
Christopherson says closing the lock would cut wages and economic output by more than $40 million. A Metropolitan Council report last year said closing the lock would wipe out 72 jobs.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources supports the closing, but some federal officials say the danger to northern Minnesota is being exaggerated.
Judy DesHarnais, of the St. Paul district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the locks system, notes that, in addition to other dams upstream of the Twin Cities, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and other popular northern Minnesota waters are not connected to the Upper Mississippi River watershed.
Either way, with Thursday’s unanimous vote in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the days of the St. Anthony Falls lock appear numbered. However, both sides agree even that measure will not end the threat from carp, zebra mussels and other invasive species.
“My God,” Nolan said after the vote, “there are at least 100 other invasive species that are all moving our way.”
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