White said the businessman should know within 30 days whether the feds will approve his permit to move here. Meanwhile, economic development promoters continue negotiations to obtain state incentives for the venture.
For months local and state tourism and wildlife promoters have grappled with the issue created by the invasive species that threatens recreational and commercial fishing in Kentucky rivers and lakes.
White learned about the problem the Alaskan businessman faced when Agriculture Commissioner James Comer visited Lyon County in early August.
“He wants to come down here and set up his ship, which is a processing plant on a boat,” White said. (The processing plant) would buy the Asian carp from area fishermen, process them and then ship them to overseas markets. The issue that is stopping him is a permit he must get from the federal government because he has foreign investors. That permit had been filled out, but then when sequestration hit, he was told it was going to be several months — maybe even a year or two before they could get to it.”
Ron Brooks of the Department of Fish and Wildlife accompanied Comer here, and Brooks said there was a way to obtain the permit quicker. That “quicker” way intrigued White.
“So that’s the angle I wanted to try,” the judge said. “I put it out there for the public to contact our senators, and I went ahead and contacted Sen. Mitch McConnell’s staff, and told them what was going on. They put me in touch with the appropriate staff member, Tate Bennett. I started working with her, and it took about three weeks. They contacted me yesterday (Aug. 28) and said they got it approved for expedited review. So within 30 days, the appropriate agency will review it and give him a yes or no.”
If the permit is approved, and the ship’s owner opts to come to Kentucky, White thinks that will be very positive for fishermen here.
“I think he will pay the (per pound) price that is necessary for these fishermen to make a profit,” White said. “So that’s one thing that is going to be a huge factor in this.”
Now Asian carp bring only 10 cents per pound, which doesn’t pay for the work involved.
If the ship’s owner does relocate here, he will likely dock at the port of Hickman.
“He wants to take advantage of the four rivers — Cumberland, Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi,” White said. “So it will be positive for our commercial fishermen. The negative side of it is it’s a long drive to Hickman daily. So I think that’s going to play a role here, and we’ve got a port here. One thing we are going to try to do is get them to move the ship up here for a while, after they dock at Hickman.
“It could be a good thing for an entrepreneur who might want to buy a truck and sort of be a satellite in this area,” the judge suggested.
“All these commercial fishermen could come to one location, load their catch onto a freezer truck and one truck could haul it down to Hickman. That would consolidate the shipping and keep more money in the pockets of the commercial fishermen and make more money for the ship’s owner too.
White thinks there are other opportunities to make this work even though the processing ship would be in Hickman.
“I’ve got some people in the county who are interested in working on different processing ways,” he said. “They are still working on it, but there are opportunities out there.”
White heaped kudos on Brooks for his work on the issue.
“He’s the man leading this effort; he knows everything about (the ship), and he’s the lead force on this and I’m glad he’s focusing on our area,” White said.
The invasion of Asian carp into local waters has become a crucial issue for recreational fishermen, an important element for Lake Barkley tourist promoters.
“I got an e-mail from (Livingston) Judge (Chris) Lasher, and he said he was in a bass fishing tournament here, and one of the bass fishermen reported that his boat nearly got filled up with Asian carp jumping into his boat,” White said.
“The (fishing party) got in a certain area, and carp just started jumping into it. The carp broke three poles, knocked a couple of poles out of the boat. These fishermen’s poles are not cheap.”
The invading carp also broke some things in the bass boat and got blood all over the carpet. White said the tournament party was at a point that they thought they might be knocked out of their boat.
“It could harm our bass industry,” White said. “Will those fishermen come back? Maybe not. Those bass boats are expensive, they’ve got carpet in them, and they can’t handle that kind of thing like my aluminum boat can. It’s something we can’t wait years for the federal government to decide whether they are going to let this ship in. This is very important that this permit is going to get reviewed in the next 30 days.”