Asian Carp and the Upper Harbor Terminal
Recently, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board took a major step towards protecting the upper Mississippi from the invasive asian carp. They signed a new contract with Paradise Cruises that does not allow the leisure boat to go through the Upper Saint Anthony Lock.
This action came in the wake of Mayor Rybak's veto of a previous action that would have continued to allow Paradise Cruises to use the lock. That action on the Mayor's part was in response to a request by three Park Commissioners who deserve special credit for their part in this action: Annie Young, Liz Wielinski and Anita Tabb.
The Paradise boat accounted for a significant percentage of the trips through the upper lock, over 800 per year.
A few things are clear. The carp are devestating to the ecology and economy of the affected areas. River and lake ecosystems become much less diverse as the carp crowd out other species, and are no longer safe and enjoyable places for recreational boating. The only two effective places to stop the carp from reaching Lake Mille Lacs are the Ford Dam and the Upper Saint Anthony Dam. Every trip through either of these locks represents a chance for the carp to invade the upper Mississippi.
And, unfortunately, federal action to close either or both of these locks is not likely to happen particularly soon. As you can read here, the federal officials charged with preventing the spread of asian carp are not concerned about Minnesota watersheds, and will be of little help.
By the time the federal government acts, it may well be too late. So it's critically important that the rest of us - local units of government, nonprofits and businesses that use the river, and individual recreational boaters - do what we can. That's what makes the Park Board's action so necessary and positive.
It's also why the City should do the one thing we can do to reduce the trips through the Saint Anthony Lock: close the Upper Harbor Terminal.
The UHT is a service provided by the City to a small number of industrial businesses in north Minneapolis. It accounts for a relatively small percentage of the overall trips through the Saint Anthony Lock, much smaller than the trips generated by Paradise Cruises.
But it's important that the City send a strong message to the State and Federal governments that we want this lock closed, and we're putting our money where our mouth is. It's also important to send a message to residents who use the river that we should all avoid using the lock to the extent possible.
The Mayor and Council President have proposed to do just that. They are bringing an action to the Council in early May that would start the 180-day clock running on closing the UHT. If passed, that action would mean that the Terminal would close in mid-November.
Our Citizens' Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC) has also weighed in and unanimously supported closing the UHT as soon as possible. Given the support from many other environmental groups for the Park Board's action last night (including Clean Water Action, Friends of the Mississippi, National Wildlife Federation, Audubon and more), I expect that the broader environmental community will also support the UHT's closure.
I support the Mayor and Council President on this, and will vote to close the Upper Harbor Terminal. It's one of the only things we can do in the near term to prevent the ecological disaster of asian carp from invading northern Minnesota.