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Editorial: Carp threaten Minnesota’s economy, culture

Earlier this year, Paul Olson, a St. Paul retiree, found himself boating on the Illinois River, a tributary of the Mississippi.

“Immediately, we noticed fish jumping out of the water,” he wrote in a column for the Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis.

“We said something like ‘wow, isn’t that something’ as we secured our boat for the night.

“The next morning, our gee-whiz spectacle turned into the plot line for an Alfred Hitchcock film. Shades of ‘The Birds’ — only this time it was ‘the fish.’ Fish that could leap out of the water, 10 feet in the air.

“Within the first two hours, 28 carp had landed on our trawler. If you are thinking that literally having fish jump into your boat is a joyful fishing experience, forget it. These lunkers deposited a slurry of slime, blood and excrement.

“After wrestling each carp to a standstill, I had to pick up each flopping beast and throw it overboard – then clean up the mess before the flies descended.

“This went on for several days.”

Sound like your idea of a fun weekend? No?

Then support the Minnesota congressional delegation’s efforts to close a Minneapolis lock to protect the upper Mississippi from invasive carp.

The carp already have reached the Mississippi’s southern reaches in Minnesota. In August, the carcass of one was found atop a concrete dam on the Winona stretch of the river.

Closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock in downtown Minneapolis will take an act of Congress. But Olson’s account of his horror-movie Illinois River trip makes one wish Congress had chained the lock’s gates shut years ago.

“By the time we got to Peoria, we began to see broader consequences,” Olson wrote.

“Locals said that just a few years ago, they could water ski on the river. Not now. Too dangerous. Getting hit by a carp could be serious.

“Barges like the ones we see along the Mississippi’s banks are covered with decomposing carp. Marina docks are carp covered, too.

“So boaters have left. The recreational boating businesses have vanished.”

And yes, that’s exactly what’s at stake in Minnesota, writes Dennis Anderson, outdoors columnist for the Star Tribune:

If Minnesota loses this battle, then “the state’s water-based character will be lost forever, as Asian carp, including the jumping silver carp, take hold in lakes and rivers that historically have helped define who we are as a people,” Anderson wrote last month.

“Then it’s bye-bye sport fishing. Bye-bye also pleasure boating. And bye-bye the billions of dollars these and related activities contribute to the state’s economy.”

While the state’s at it, the Minnesota River also will need protection. The river empties into the Mississippi just south of the Twin Cities, and no locks protect its upper reaches.

But “there are options that have been used with some success elsewhere, including creating a combination of bubble, light and electric barriers across the river,” the Mankato Free Press editorialized last week.

And right now, the focus must be on getting Congress to act. In a Star Tribune column, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. says it plain: “If invasive carp continue to spread, Minnesota’s economy and culture will be at risk.”

“Fortunately, experts across the state agree that closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam is the most viable and cost-efficient measure to prevent the spread of invasive carp into northern Minnesota.” Congress must heed the experts’ advice.


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