An increase in the federal funds normally awarded to the upper Mississippi area will make it possible for Kentucky and two other states to receive a portion of those funds in their fight against Asian carp.
Representatives from Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama, including Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White, joined the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association for a trip to Washington, D.C., where they asked that the $11 million in federal funds that the upper Mississippi area normally receives be increased to $25 million.
The two-day trip took place on Wednesday and Thursday.
"We've all sort of joined together, mostly fish and wildlife leaders and little ole' me, trying to get that money," said White, who is among those working to reduce the numbers of Asian carp plaguing Kentucky and other states.
White said he was asked to join the association in the nation's capital.
The judge-executive said supporters are placing a test barrier below Barkley Dam to see if the lights, sound and bubbles will keep the fish from swimming through. If it works, they want to use the federal funds to place nine other barriers at locations throughout the four states.
One of those nine sites will be the Kentucky Dam.
Additionally, the federal funds will be used for subsidies to help commercial fishermen, for nets, for research and any other needs that come up in the ongoing War on Carp, the judge-executive said. He noted that there are not any federal funds now for commercial fisherman who are on the forefront in combatting the carp.
Kentucky pays 5 cents per pound for subsidies to help the fishermen.
"They're our main way to take care of this," White observed of the commercial fishermen on Thursday afternoon. "That's why we've got to keep them making money or they'll move on to something else."
In the past few months, they've brought some two million pounds of Asian carp out of the lakes, "just the start of it, really," White said.
"I'm sure that's making a dent, but we've got a long way to go," he said.
White noted that he and others working to reduce the numbers of carp in Kentucky and elsewhere will continue to push for the $25 million in federal funds they want to split among the four states.
And they'll be working at the state level to find markets for the small fish that don't bring as much money. White said it will be several months before officials know if they'll receive the federal funds.
He said those funds will be coming from the federal budget.
Members of the Mississippi association spoke with Washington officials on Thursday during a congressional staff briefing that discussed management and control of Asian carp in the Mississippi River Basin.
The group met on Wednesday with U.S. Congressman James Comer and on Thursday with U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and the staff of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. In the wake of those visits earlier this week, White said he feels positive about receiving funding from the federal level.
"I believe we have a great chance with Sen. McConnell," he said. "Paul and Congressman Comer are fighting for us, plus the other states too."
White said the Barkley Dam test barrier has already been paid for with funds from the Fish and Wildlife Services and the U.S. Geological Survey. Each barrier costs a little more than $1 million, he noted.
He observed that officials in the Mississippi River Basin have been battling Asian carp, an aggressive fresh water fish, for several years.
The carp have been an issue at both Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake.
They deplete the food sources for other types of fish, including bass, and are problematic for boaters and swimmers; their tendency to jump out of the water often leaves people afraid to be in the water.
White has been instrumental in fighting the overabundance of the fish, organizing a congressional hearing on the matter last summer and helping to secure both funding and other resources to combat the fish.
The association in Mississippi is a partnership of natural resource departments in 28 state that is seeking to improve management of inter-jurisdictional fish and other aquatic resources in the Mississippi River Basin, according to the group's website at micrarivers.org.