As your representative in Congress, I am committed to fighting for the issues that matter most to the First District of Kentucky. In recent months, I have seen firsthand the threat posed by Asian carp to our beautiful lakes and rivers in Western Kentucky, and the communities that rely on these waters for fishing, tourism, recreation and so much more. This invasive species has wreaked havoc on the local ecosystem, displaced the formerly plentiful game fish that draw so many anglers to the region, and, in the case of Silver carp, injured boaters and other Kentuckians out on the water.
To address this growing crisis, I recently hosted a House Oversight and Government Reform Field Briefing to explore the federal, state and local government efforts to control and eradicate Asian carp from our waterways. On Friday, July 27, I was encouraged to see nearly 400 concerned citizens gather in Eddyville, Kentucky, to hear from expert witnesses and state officials about our existing Asian carp programs and what more needs to be done to protect Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley from this destructive invasive fish. They were joined by local elected officials, state representatives, business leaders and others who have a vested interest in preserving the $1.2 billion tourism industry these lakes support.
In the weeks leading up to the briefing, I heard from more than 300 individuals from Kentucky, Tennessee and beyond. Their letters voiced concerns about Asian carp and the changes they were seeing in our treasured lakes. Executive Director of the Kentucky Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, Randy Newcomb echoed these concerns about the rapid expansion of Asian carp, testifying, “continued unchecked, this will be disastrous for the lakes and communities that depend upon them.”
Many letters also included ideas for how to solve the Asian carp problem, ranging from commercial fishing and harvest, to better deterrents and barriers, to new technologies and methods for removing Asian carp from our waterways. State wildlife officials Ron Brooks from Kentucky and Bobby Wilson of Tennessee testified about their efforts to grow local commercial fishing operations through subsidies, equipment and transportation assistance, as well as support for local fish processing facilities. In their view, commercial harvest is the best chance we have to make a dent in the Asian carp population quickly, but they need more funding to make it happen.
The Field Briefing also included expert witnesses from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and U.S. Geological Survey, the two agencies at the center of the federal government’s Asian carp response. They discussed ongoing efforts to remove these fish from Kentucky’s waterways and develop new methods to control and reduce Asian carp populations, such as the pilot program for acoustic fish barriers at Barkley Dam. According to Allan Brown with USFWS, Kentucky received over $700,000 in Fiscal Year 2018 for controlling the established Asian carp population and limiting their expansion. I am glad to have Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s support in this effort and will continue to work closely with these agencies to ensure our communities are receiving the assistance they need.
It was important to me that we held this conversation in Kentucky to demonstrate the real damage caused by Asian carp in communities like ours, and to highlight the urgent need for more federal support and funding to help stop this crisis. One message from the field briefing was made loud and clear, Washington must step up and provide more money to states and local communities who are on the front lines of the battle against Asian carp.
A critical ally in this fight is Senator Mitch McConnell who has worked hard to push new funding for Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley through the Senate Appropriations process. I look forward to working with Senator McConnell and other colleagues in Congress, like Representative David Kustoff of Tennessee, to provide the necessary funding for Asian carp programs. Moving forward, I will continue to do my part as we work together to win the fight against Asian carp.