Joe Cunningham, a Lyon County native and current South Carolina congressman, returned home to western Kentucky on official business as a lawmaker, though his home district is more than 600 miles away.
Cunningham, a Democrat, last week joined Kentucky’s Republican 1st District Congressman James Comer for a bipartisan visit to better understand local issues. Judge-Executive Wade White hosted the lawmakers on their tour to Lyon County, pressing them on the importance of the War on Asian Carp.
The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Congressional Exchange Program brought Cunningham and Comer together during the congressional recesses. The program seeks to bring members of Congress from different parties and regions together to travel, learn about their districts and discuss bipartisan solutions to emerging challenges.
“The people of western Kentucky and the Lowcountry (South Carolina) know that government works best when both sides can come to the table and work together,” said Cunningham. “The Congressional Exchange Program helps foster important bipartisan relationships. and I am looking forward to welcoming James (Comer) to the Lowcountry soon.”
Cunningham said he enjoyed the visit to his old stomping grounds, touring the Center for Engineering and Advanced Technology at Madisonville Community College, the Ohio River in Paducah for a tour of barge and boating operations and a boat ride on the Cumberland River in Lyon County to get a firsthand look at efforts to combat Asian carp.
White has been heading up the local fight against the nuisance species of fish that has invaded western Kentucky waters, calling on state and federal resources to help eradicate the Asian carp.
“Two years ago, Congressman Comer brought his staff for a boat ride to see the carp. We had carp leaping into the boat constantly during the trip,” White said. “(Last) week, we went at the same time and location and never had one carp jump in the boat. We may have seen less than 10 jump.”
A hub for carp fishing, Lyon County is the only county in the state to use economic development money from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to pay fishermen an extra 4 cents on top of the state subsidy to fish the Asian carp from Lake Barkley and the Cumberland River, according to the judge-executive. TVA is the federally-owned corporation created to provide flood control and electricity generation, among other things.
“I’m very excited to say that these hero carp commercial fishermen are making a huge dent in the carp population,” White said. “We need to keep the pressure on to see these subsidies continue, and having congressional visits likes this makes a huge difference in getting the resources we need to win the War on Carp.”
Witnessing the issue in person, as White indicated, is old hat for Comer, but Cunningham has resided outside of western Kentucky for much of the period that has seen the Asian carp begin to plague local waters.
Later this year, Comer will learn firsthand about issues in Cunningham’s district, which is mostly coastal along South Carolina’s northern shores, when he repays the favor to his friend from across the aisle.
“I was honored to travel with my friend and colleague … in the area where he grew up and spend some time touring some of the bright spots for business, education and outdoor recreation in western Kentucky,” Comer said.