WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman James Comer recently spoke before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in favor of an increased federal investment in Kentucky’s waterways infrastructure, including upgrades on levees, locks and dams, and countless other projects.
He noted that the Purchase Region serves as a major hub of America’s inland waterways system, creating jobs and providing a safe and efficient way to transport commodities across America. Specifically, Congressman Comer mentioned his support for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which is utilized by riverports such as the Hickman-Fulton County Riverport Authority to address critical maintenance needs.
He also brought the issue of Asian carp in West Kentucky’s inland waterways to the committee’s attention, noting that while progress has been made, the invasive species continues to threaten the region’s vital tourism economy.
Text of Congressman Comer’s Remarks:
Thank you Madam Chair, Ranking Member LaMalfa, Members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.
I represent the 1st Congressional District of Kentucky, which is home to Paducah which serves as a major hub of the inland waterways system due to its strategic location at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. Kentucky's river industry alone moves around 100 million tons of cargo per year with a combined value of over $10 billion. Our waterways provide a safe and efficient way to transport the commodities that America needs – from coal and petroleum, to chemicals and other hazardous materials, to grains and other agricultural products like those grown and used in my district. Unfortunately, the majority of our waterways infrastructure is over fifty years old and we are beginning to pay the price. This includes levees needed for flood protection, locks and dams that support navigation and hydropower generation, and countless other projects necessary to transit the inland waterways system. These major infrastructure projects are strategic investments in the future of our nation’s infrastructure, and Americans deserve consistent, stable federal funding in order to capitalize on our highly skilled workforce and foster further industrial development.
As Congress considers components of a WRDA reauthorization, I want to voice my support for conforming the cost-share for new construction and major rehabilitation projects on the inland waterways transportation system. I support adjusting the cost-share to 25% Inland Waterways Trust Fund and 75% general funds for Inland Waterways Trust Fund construction projects. This adjustment will allow the inland waterways construction portfolio of 23 projects to be completed in 20 years instead of the current expected completion of 40 years.
Another issue that I would like to discuss today is threat to not just my congressional district, but our entire inland waterways system. That threat is Asian 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 recreation 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 is threatening our tourism 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. The explosion of carp is driving boaters and fishermen 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. While progress has been made, we must still continue to work to eradicate Asian Carp and prioritize resources to fight this invasive species.
Additionally, I would like to express my support for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which is used by Riverports such as the Hickman-Fulton County Riverport Authority for vital dredging.
I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in Congress to provide resources for completion of these high-priority investments in our waterways infrastructure, and I appreciate the opportunity to relay these priorities to you today.