By: John Hageman, Forum News Service

BEMIDJI, Minn. – Conservationists and wildlife advocates used dire language Wednesday in describing the threat Asian carp pose to Minnesota’s lakes and rivers.

“I see this as a war, with the enemy currently invading our precious waters,” Gary Botzek, director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation, said during a conference call. “The general public is very aware of the enemy.”

Botzek was referring to a statewide poll released Wednesday by the Stop Carp Coalition, in which 60 percent of respondents said they would be “very concerned” if Asian carp got into lakes and streams throughout Minnesota. So far, none have migrated north of the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam in downtown Minneapolis.

And to prevent that from happening, 63 percent of the 404 registered voters polled said they supported closing lock and dam systems in the Twin Cities to prevent the invasive fish’s spread. Congressional action is pending, something supporters hope changes soon 

“We want to show (the state congressional delegation) that Minnesota supports this legislation,” said Christine Goepfert, the Upper Midwest program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.

A provision authored by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., that would close the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam passed the Senate in May. In late July, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., testified in a House subcommittee in favor of his bill that would do the same.

“Closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam is the most proactive, viable and cost-efficient measure Congress can take to prevent the spread of invasive carp into northern Minnesota and the Upper Midwest,” he said in a statement.

In an interview last month, Klobuchar said closing the lock and dam would be the most surefire way of stopping the spread of Asian carp while other techniques are researched.

But only 42 percent of those who participated in the poll, which was conducted in late June by Belden Russonello Strategists, said they would support using tax dollars to help businesses use trucks to transport goods past the lock and dam system.

Klobuchar said that only two companies use the passageway.

Those participating in the conference call Wednesday urged immediate action on closing the barrier. They said Asian carp would devastate the tourism and recreational economy on which much of Minnesota relies.

Lance Ness, president of the Anglers for Habitat, Fish and Wildlife Legislative Alliance, painted a bleak picture of northern Minnesota’s future if Asian carp make their way up here, predicating that tourism would suffer, resorts would close and boating and fishing would never be the same.

“If the Asian carp get past the upper Mississippi lock system, and into our northern lakes and rivers, the Land of 10,000 Lakes will be forever closed."