Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White issued a call to action Thursday morning in response to a major funding sweep he said is part of Governor Andy Beshear’s proposed budget.
White said the total $11 million sweep from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife would weaken efforts of the ‘War on Carp.’ But a representative with Beshear’s office said that information is incorrect--the proposed budget provides $14 million more to the department than the current budget.
“The governor fully funded the Department for Fish and Wildlife in the proposed budget--they are not taking any cut. In fact, the governor’s proposed budget provides $14 million more to the department than the current budget,” said Sebastian Kitchen, spokesperson for the Beshear administration said. “The governor is committed to combating Asian carp by providing nearly $2 million to fight the invasive species, with another $4 million provided by the federal government. In addition, the department is also receiving $12.5 million from one-time federal funding sources.”
Kitchen went on to say the department never requested boat registration funds to be used in the fight against Asian carp, adding, “...and this is not the first time the judge-executive has spread incorrect information about the governor.”
The two-minute video posted on the War on Carp Facebook page received more than 9,000 views in six hours. The video features White in front of a dry erase board explaining how the proposed cuts would negatively impact the fight against the invasive species.
White discussed an increased boat registration fee, which was implemented to create a funding stream earmarked for boat ramp maintenance, water enforcement, and Asian Carp control. He said the sweep of $5.5 million each year for the next two fiscal years, totaling $11 million, would result in a smaller funding stream for the War on Carp.
“Here’s why that’s important: the subsidy we’re using to keep our commercial fishermen here, fishing and pulling these things out of our lakes, I don’t know if that would be able to stay. The fish center may not even be able to function,” he said. “Another big one would be the research on the barrier below the dam. We put in the BAFF (bio acoustic fish fence) a few months ago in order to keep the fish in the river out of our lakes. Well, that research and seeing if that works and keeping it going, that may not be able to happen either because of all this money being pulled away from fish and wildlife.”
White called on his constituents to contact Beshear’s office, as well as State Reps. Steven Rudy, R-Kevil, and Chris Freeland, R-Benton, to voice their concern. He said he had done the same.
“Judge White is right to sound the alarm about the governor’s proposal to sweep $11 million from Fish and Wildlife,” State Rep. Steven Rudy said. “Our region has done a tremendous job of dealing with the Asian carp problem, but this funding is critical to our efforts to rid our waters of this species.”
Rudy said as chair of the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, he’s working with leadership and other members to ensure funding remains with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“We are a state with many needs, but I believe sweeping this money away from fish and wildlife does more damage than good; it will only get more expensive to deal with the Asian carp problem,” he added.
Rudy also said the ‘War on Carp’ is a priority because it impacts the local economy in a number of ways, including hurting tourism. He said western Kentucky has the most beautiful waterways in the nation, but they’re “about to be overrun by fish.”
He said it’s impossible to identify exactly where the diverted funds were intended to go because Beshear’s proposed budget increased spending in many areas of the budget, but he’s committed to supporting efforts to combat Asian Carp.
“I support Judge White and the members of War on Carp,” he said. “They’re doing a tremendous job of educating the rest of the state on the Asian Carp problem.”
White started the grassroots effort ‘War on Carp’ two years ago and has spearheaded the movement, garnering national attention.
Most recently, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell visited Calvert City in Dec. 2019 to announce he had secured $25 million to fight the Asian Carp infestation in western Kentucky, $2.5 million of that earmarked for contract fishing.