Commentary: Ode to Lock and Dam No. 1

By Barry Buckley

So they went ahead and did it. Congress followed through and closed the Historic Lock and Dam No. 1 of our mighty Mississippi River.

Last year after skating through a rigorous school background check, I took a tour of the lock as a chaperone on a St. Anthony Park Elementary School field trip. This is truly an engineering marvel as we witnessed the entire 15-minute cycle transporting two huge barges about 50 feet vertically. The barges were loaded with a mound of ground-up 1970s dream cars heading for the smelter, likely to be converted to Hybrids or Pedal Pubs.

The tender informed me that as a result of closing the lock, some 600 dump trucks would be on the road per day, transporting an equivalent amount of material that passes through this lock. It would also shut down passage for a large number of canoeists and kayakers headed downstream to New Orleans because they’re too cheap to buy a ticket on the Megabus.

News flash, Huck Finn: Megabus has free wifi.

The reason for this fast-track closure is to deny lock access to the dreaded Asian carp. (I stand corrected, invasive carp. The title of invasive carp is apparently more politically correct and carp are sensitive.)

This closure, which is crystal clear to everyone except me and a boat captain or two, will prevent these illegal lock-crossers from gaining access upriver and terrorizing all the Mississippi River belongers.

I questioned the lock tender as to why they simply couldn’t shoot some high voltage current through the water once the lock doors are closed tight as the payload of ground-up Detroit muscle is secured. The juice could be provided free from Hank Ford’s dam downstream where the carp like to winter. The lock tender informed me of the potential liability created by a SWAT team of lock lawyers, where a barge operator might become heavily juiced—or even oven-roasted—while handling a steel tow cable that could be precariously dangling in carp infested water.

Another news flash: With enough guys in the Twin Cities entering the recommended-age-for-colonoscopy window, there’s an abundant supply of rubber gloves out there for the barge-line handlers. New ones, of course.

So I have some discouraging news for our Congress. Closing the lock will not stop the carp. Might slow them down a tad. Yes, we know they’re sensitive fish, but they are also real smart. It’s a big-time ugly fish scoring a solid 9 on the creep meter and not real tasty.

Sadly, it’s an inedible fish, unworthy even of being ground up for GNC fish oil pills. I bet if carp were an international delicacy sold on a stick at the State Fair, Lock No. 1 would be pushing a barge through right now.

Invasive carp Plan B for the upstream commute is a casual float just below the warm sunlit surface pretending to be food for what lurks above. Mr. Carp then obtaining transport to the sweet side of St. Anthony Falls via Air Osprey or Air Eagle first class.

Plan C, I’ve actually witnessed firsthand with two carp jumping into the seats of the Betty Danger Ferris Wheel in Northeast Minneapolis and launching themselves with their selfie sticks, safely landing upriver to pillage virgin territory and all its native species. Technically known as the “Carpe Diem” move, degree of difficulty 6.8. I think all native species possess a selfish “we were here first” attitude.

Our elected official intermeddlers have now closed all shipping and intercoastal traffic on a river that has existed for eons, and it defies any rational thought for me. Rumor has it, there is consideration in closing the Hennepin Avenue bridge as a rafter of turkeys from Minneapolis are trying to gain access to the St. Paul side.

My wife thinks I should stop all this nonsense and cut the grass, shower for a change or at the very least take on a new hobby.

I haven’t told her yet, but I started looking on Craigslist for a used dump truck to haul scrap.


Barry Buckley is a recent transplant to St. Anthony Park from the East Coast, frequently commuting to the Speedy Market. He also captains a historic 1925 Oyster Buyboat on the Chesapeake Bay.


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