Asian carp

WRDA Includes Carp Funding

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell touted inclusion of funds to combat against invasive Asian carp species as part of the recently passed 2020 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

McConnell championed an authorization of $45 million for both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to a news release from his office December 21.

A McConnell-inserted allocation creates the $25 million Asian Carp Pilot Program to be administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The program requires that up to 10 projects must be deployed in the Cumberland or Tennessee River watersheds, which includes Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. It amounts to a renewal of a $25 million program instituted in 2020 to help combat the spread of the fish.

A news release from the Tennessee Wildlife Federation said the allocation could potentially fund three to five Asian carp barriers using sounds, lights and bubbles to try to stop the fish from moving upriver through the watersheds. One such barrier, the Bio-Acoustic Fish Fence from Fish Guidance Systems, has been installed and is being tested at Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River as part of a pilot project.

“Tennessee Wildlife Federation is proud of its contributions to securing these funds and extends a thank you to the many groups and people involved in this legislation, particularly Senators (Lamar) Alexander and (Mitch) McConnell as well as Congressmen (David) Kustoff, (Tim) Burchett, (John) Rose, (Phil) Roe, (Jim) Cooper and (Steve) Cohen and their dedicated staff,” Tennessee Wildlife Federation CEO Michael Butler said. “The federation has been working with leaders across the Southeast and creating a place for collaboration that helped lead to this funding win.”

WRDA also establishes an Asian Carp Eradication Program in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The program will be allocated $4 million a year for 2021 through 2025, with priority given to states in the Tennessee and Cumberland River watersheds.

At McConnell’s request, the USFWS deployed its modified unified method of commercial fishing in Kentucky Lake in February 2020, corralling the carp into one location using electronic technology and extracting the fish from the water with specialized nets. The U.S. Geological Survey has used similar methods previously in Missouri and Illinois.

“Senator McConnell remains committed to western Kentucky,” said Lyon County (Ky.) Judge-Executive Wade White, who helps lead the War On Carp social media campaign. “He understands the impact Asian carp are having on our waterways, and with his experience and effectiveness, secured critical funding to finish what he started. By returning this money to western Kentucky, Sen. McConnell is guaranteeing that our ability to enjoy and earn a living on our waterways will be protected for years to come. Sen. McConnell refused to accept the devastating effect these fish were having and continues to champion efforts against them that will benefit us all. He’s more than my friend, he’s the strong leader we need who’s getting the job done for Kentucky.”

President Donald Trump initially tweeted his displeasure about including the carp funding as part of the omnibus spending bill, saying the money would be better spent for expanding COVID-19 stimulus checks to taxpayers. He later signed the measure, making the provisions into law.