Legislators on the House Environment Committee criticized the Department of Natural Resource’s preferred barrier, a combination of light, sound and bubbles that one lawmaker called disco (because of the light and sound) and one called the Lawrence Welk method (because of the sound and bubbles).
Many legislators support an electric barrier, which they thought the DNR was pursuing. A third suggestion emerged, making a Minneapolis lock and dam obsolete, allowing it to remain closed and, thus, stopping any fish from going upstream.
Several lawmakers were surprised by a DNR report this month, prepared by a consultant, that dismissed using an electric barrier at a St. Paul lock and dam. The report indicated electric barriers were too dangerous, so the DNR backed a sound, light and bubble barrier instead.
Several lawmakers said they appropriated $7.5 million last year to begin work on an electric barrier. The DNR’s Steve Hirsch said he did not think the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or Coast Guard would approve an electric barrier, and the state would waste $1 million and several months preparing a proposal that ultimately would be rejected.
Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, suggested a third option that many lawmakers had not heard. She said a river boat company and many recreational boaters have said they do not need a downtown Minneapolis lock, leaving just two businesses that use it.
Wagenius suggested that if the state helps those businesses find other transportation routes, the lock could be closed because it would be obsolete. Several lawmakers said that sounded like the most economical plan. However, Congress would have to approve it.