The U.S. House passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, legislation that would pave the way for closure of the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam on the Mississippi River in an effort to prevent the advance of invasive carp.
The water infrastructure bill, which passed on a near unanimous vote, also includes a provision from U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum that would create a federal task force headed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to combat the spread of invasive carp throughout the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River Valley.
A voracious species, the invasive carp can grow to 40 pounds or more and some can jump up to 10 feet out of the water. They compete with native game fish, including bass, walleye, and northern pike, for food and habitat.
If the lock remains open, environmentalists and state Department of Natural Resources officials fear the carp could spread north past the barrier causing irreparable harm to the state’s fishing and tourism industries.
The legislation “protects our vital fishing and recreational industry, it preserves tourism jobs in northern Minnesota, it prevents us from spending government dollars to manage carp if these fish invade northern Minnesota waters,” U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison said in a House floor speech.
The Senate could vote on the bill before the end of the week, sending it on to President Obama for his signature.
The bill also authorizes spending up to $800 million for a flood diversion project that would protect the Red River Valley region of North Dakota and Minnesota.