WASHINGTON – Congressman Comer testified today during Member Day at the House Appropriation Committee’s Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. Member Days allow for Representatives to speak before any given congressional committee about his or her high-level legislative priorities.
Congressman Comer had the opportunity to weigh in on funding priorities for the next fiscal year’s appropriations, specifically with regards to combating Asian carp in the 1st District and beyond. This past year, Congressman Comer has highlighted the threats this invasive species poses to boating, camping, fishing, and other activities which are vital to Kentucky’s regional economic prosperity.
To reduce the influx of Asian carp throughout the nation’s interior river system, hundreds of millions in funding have already been focused on preventing the spread into the Great Lakes. However, more needs to be appropriated to control and eradicate Asian carp where they already are. During his testimony at Member Day, Congressman Comer asked for increased funding for states to manage and eventually eliminate the invasive species.
Lyon County Judge Executive Wade White commented on Congressman Comer’s testimony, saying, “All who are fighting the War on Carp appreciate the work Congressman Comer is doing to help us solve the Asian carp problem. He has been with us from the beginning of our effort with the War on Carp and I believe his dedication to solving this problem will benefit not only Western Kentucky but also all those communities up and down the river systems. He is following through with his commitment to solve this major problem.”
View Congressman Comer’s full testimony here:
Chairwoman McCollum, Ranking Member Joyce, Chairwoman Lowey, Ranking Member Granger, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. I appreciate the Appropriations Committee allowing members from outside the committee to weigh in on their funding priorities as you craft the next fiscal year’s appropriations.
Today, I’m here to highlight an issue that is a problem threatening not just my congressional district, but our entire inland waterways system. That threat is Asian carp.
As many of you know, the term “Asian carp” refers to four species of non-native fish – bighead, silver, black and grass carp. These species were brought to the United States decades ago, soon entered our major waterways, and have since spread to a considerable portion of our country’s interior river system.
Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake in my congressional district are home to some of the top outdoor recreational sites in all of Kentucky. Boating, camping, fishing, and other activities have an estimated $1.2 billion economic impact on the region. However, Asian carp threaten that economy. These invasive fish are known to jump out of the water at the sound of approaching boats, striking boaters and skiers. They also eat the food sources of native fish species. All of this is driving boaters and fishers away from our region. As an example, Asian carp are ruining the annual fishing tournaments that draw hundreds of visitors to the area and infuse millions of dollars into the local economy.
Last year, I held a field briefing to discuss this subject in Kuttawa, Kentucky. Over 400 constituents attended and wrote letters to express their concern over the destruction caused by Asian carp. The community sent a clear message: Asian carp are inflicting serious damage on local tourism and threatening our hotels, restaurants, bait shops, restaurants, and numerous other small businesses.
This isn’t a problem just in Kentucky. For years funding to combat the threat posed by Asian carp has been focused on preventing their spread into the Great Lakes with hundreds of millions dedicated to stopping their spread. However, little funding has been appropriated to controlling and eradicating Asian carp where they already are.
Lakes and reservoirs throughout the Southeast are facing similar threats from Asian carp and members from Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama are all share a growing concern for our waterways.
State agencies utilize state Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) plans to combat the spread of invasive species in their waterways. In FY2018 we appropriated $2 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to support these plans. However, when that funding is distributed amongst the states that comes out to about $47,000 per state. To better support state-based efforts, I am asking for $4.4 million appropriated to support state ANS plans. That would allow for $100,000 per state.
In FY2019, $11 million in USFWS funding was dedicated to controlling and eradicating Asian carp. My constituents are grateful for that start, but I believe we can do more. That is why I request $25 million in funding for USFWS for carp management and report language to clarify that all our nation’s river system is eligible for that funding, not just the Upper Mississippi River.
Again, thank you for your time today. I look forward to working with you to fund our ongoing War on Carp and I’m happy to address any questions you might have.