The U.S. House approved a bill Wednesday that would close the St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam to protect Minnesota’s northern waters from invasive Asian carp.
Environmentalists and sportsmen praised the legislation but opponents worried about the precedent set by shutting down a working waterway over unwelcome fish. In an effort to blunt opposition, the bill would trigger the Minneapolis lock closure on the basis of its limited use, not the threat of carp.
Proponents of closure say the effect on a handful of Minneapolis companies pales in comparison to what could happen to Minnesota’s $11 billion-a-year tourism industry if Asian carp, an invasive species that crowds out native fish, begin breeding in the state’s lakes and rivers.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources supports the closing, but some federal officials say the danger to northern Minnesota is being exaggerated. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and other popular northern Minnesota waters are not connected to the Upper Mississippi River watershed.
The provision was included as part of multi-bilion dollar water resources bill that funds the nation's ports and water projects.
The measure passed the House 417-3, with U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota’s Seventh District casting one of the ‘no’ votes. The rest of Minnesota’s House delegation backed the bill.
Lawmakers will now work to merge the bill with the Senate version, which passed in May with support from U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.
The legislation passed Wednesday also included an amendment backed by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum that would mandate a comprehensive federal strategy to combat invasive species throughout the Mississippi and Ohio River basins.