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Congress or the Carp? Who will act faster? Nolan optimistic on anti-carp measures

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BEMIDJI — The fate of northern Minnesota waterways may depend on the U.S. Congress’s ability to get things done.

In August, the carcass of a silver carp was found where it had likely tried to jump over Lock and Dam 5 on the Mississippi River near Winona, about 110 miles south of the Twin Cities. Silver carp, which kill off native fish species and can collide with boaters when they jump into the air, have been steadily moving up the Mississippi.

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To keep the carp out of tourism-rich northern Minnesota lakes and rivers, the DNR recommends closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock in Minneapolis. But since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the lock, it can only be shut down by an act of Congress.

Both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives passed versions of a 2013 water resources bill that included the lock closure, but the 2013 legislative session ran out before they could agree on a combined final version.

The question is, who will act faster — Congress or the carp?

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., a supporter of the measure closing the lock and a member of the conference committee working to reconcile the House and Senate bills, is betting on Congress.

“That’s going to become a reality,” Nolan said Thursday of the lock closure. “We’re going to get a (lock) shutdown early this year.”

Nolan said there is a “pretty slight” chance the carp could make it past the lock before Congress would authorize its closure, but added the carp are “nowhere near” the lock as far as experts could detect.

“We’re trying to get way ahead of the curve on this thing,” he said.

The measure has the support of environmentalists and anglers but barge industry representative Al Christopherson said in a September article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the lock closure would cause $40 million dollars worth of economic damage.

Nolan, who represents Minnesota’s Eighth District, said averting the possible loss of tourism jobs and dollars in outstate Minnesota outweighed the potential economic loss in te Twin Cities.

“This is not about Minneapolis,” he said. “This is about the Eighth District and stopping these Asian carp.”

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