Call to Order and Roll Call
The1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment was held on Thursday, June 6, 2013, at 1:00 PM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Jared Carpenter, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Jared Carpenter, Co-Chair; Representative Jim Gooch Jr., Co-Chair; Senators Joe Bowen, Chris Girdler, Ray S. Jones II, Bob Leeper, Johnny Ray Turner, Robin L. Webb, and Whitney Westerfield; Representatives Hubert Collins, Keith Hall, Reginald Meeks, Tim Moore, Marie Rader, John Short, John Will Stacy, Fitz Steele, Jim Stewart III, and Jill York.
Guests: Deputy Director Benjy Kinman and Major Shane Carrier, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources; Mr. Don Dott, Kentucky State Nature Preserves; Mr. Jody Thompson, Kentucky Division of Forestry; and Dr. John Obrycki, Kentucky State Entomologist.
Division of Fish and Wildlife Resources enforcement program on Boating Safety
Mr. Kinman described the fishing restrictions below dams owned or operated by the United State Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the actions taken in the United States Congress to resolve the dispute between USACE and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). USACE commenced a program of full-time waterborne restrictions on ten dams in the Cumberland River system in Tennessee and Kentucky. Four facilities were impacted in Kentucky, but the two main facilities that were at issue were Wolf Creek Dam and Lake Barkley.
USACE placed buoys and eventually placed permanent physical barriers to prevent boaters and angers from accessing hazardous waters above and below the dam. USACE argued that when the gates are open on the dam, a reverse flow is created in the river channel. The reverse flow of water can cause a boat to capsize. KDFWR agrees that the reverse flows are dangerous but are only a threat to boaters when gates are open and KDFWR contends there are ways to inform the public of the dangers and still allow the waters to be fishable.
The problem is that there are many high value species of fish that can be caught in these locations making it very popular for sport fishermen. It is also of interest for communities that rely on recreational tourism. During the 2013 session of the General Assembly, two resolutions were adopted that requested USACE to delay the implementation of the full-time waterborne restrictions. Senate Resolution 112 and House Resolution 88 also encouraged USACE and KDFWR to develop a different solution. Additionally, Governor Steve Beshear sent a letter to USACE’s Nashville District Office asking that the full-time permanent waterborne restrictions not be implemented.
Senator McConnell and Congressmen Whitfield, Barr, and Guthrie introduced the 2013 Freedom to Fish Act, which prevents USACE from installing the physical barriers along portions of the Cumberland River system and remove any existing barriers along the 10 dams on the Cumberland River system. Signed by President Obama on June 4, 2013, the Act imposes a two-year moratorium on further implementation of USACE’s protocol to allow KDFWR and USACE ample time to develop a warning system that will let boaters and anglers know when the waters are hazardous and fishing is prohibited.
In response to a question about whether KDFWR or USACE has estimated the value of the sport fishing at Wolf Creek Dam, Mr. Kinman said no. However, there is significant value and KDFWR is restocking the lakes. KDFWR appreciates the state and Congressional delegations for their assistance in this matter.
In response to a question about whether there is a siren system currently in place to warn when the gates are open, Mr. Kinman said yes. However, USACE was impacted several years ago by litigation regarding the use of the sirens. As a result, USACE shut the siren down.
In response to a question about the summer pool at Buckhorn Lake, Mr. Kinman replied that the normal pool is 723 feet, and the pool is being increased in phases. Senator Girdler thanked Mr. Kinman for KDFWR’s efforts to design a new way of warning boaters and allowing fishing to continue.
Major Carrier discussed law enforcement presence on Kentucky’s lakes and rivers, KDFWR’s boater education and enforcement program, and boating under the influence (BUI). The reason why enforcement and education are important is that there are 175,286 registered boats in Kentucky. Additionally, there are thousands of nonresident visitors who use Kentucky’s waterways each year.
KDFWR’s objective with the boating education and enforcement initiative is to provide safe waterways in Kentucky for recreational enjoyment. The boating education program is staffed by one full-time boating education coordinator. KDFWR partners with local businesses to promote boating safety by offering promotions and with BoatUS to offer loaner life jackets. KDFWR also promotes boating safety through public service announcements. KDFWR offers online and traditional classroom educational opportunities. The education classes are mandatory for minors between the ages of 12 and 17 who operate a boat over 10 horsepower. KDFWR issued 6,424 safe boating certificates in the past five years.
Regarding BUI, Kentucky’s boating enforcement data show that between 2008 and 2012 there were 854 alcohol related arrests of which 45 percent were attributed to BUI. During the same time frame, there were 342 boating accidents that were alcohol related and 17 deaths that were alcohol related. KDFWR enforcement officers work in conjunction with local law enforcement to detect intoxicated boaters and enforce BUI laws during the National Boating Safety Effort, which is a weekend event.
Major Carrier described the BUI statutes and KDFWR proposal for strengthening the probable cause section. KDFWR wants the statutes to mirror the drinking under the influence (DUI) statutes. If an officer comes upon an accident, the officer does not automatically have probable cause to determine if intoxication was a causal factor.
In response to a question regarding how many officers are on the water to enforce the boating statutes, Major Carrier responded that all enforcement officers are on the water during the weekends. There are 123 filled uniformed enforcement officers
Threat from and response to invasive and exotic plant and insect species
Don Dott, executive director of Kentucky State Nature Preserves, discussed the problems for habitat and natural plants and animals from exotic and invasive species. Exotic species do not have natural enemies that mitigate their growth patterns, mature earlier than native species, have profuse seed production, and remain in the soils for a long time. The impact of exotic and invasive species is severe for agriculture, tourism, industry, and natural habitats. Kudzu, for example, affects the Jackson Purchase area of Kentucky and is responsible for spreading soybean rust. It was brought to Kentucky as a way to control erosion, but it quickly spread out of control.
Exotic and invasive species are in every county in Kentucky. There are several corridors for exotic and invasive species such as the Kentucky River. Exotic and invasive species thrive in disturbed areas, including rock quarries, and in riparian zones. Exotic and invasive species are often carried as seed or small plants in rock or dirt loads which create problems for industry and farmers respectively. These species can become a resource drain because the landowner then must treat the plants with a herbicide.
In response to a question regarding how landowners can manage the problem of exotic and invasive species and kudzu in particular, Mr. Dott said that herbicides are the best treatment, and the problem is difficult to control. Kudzu, when present on nature preserves, is hard to control. The roots are long, and repeated treatment with herbicides is necessary. Programs such as habitat improvement under the United States Department of Agriculture have been helpful to landowners in subsidizing the cost of herbicide treatment.
In response to a question regarding the prognosis for exotic and invasive control in Kentucky, Mr. Dott said it is poor. Unless there are more resources, exotic and invasive plants cannot be controlled. Kentucky Sate Nature Preserves uses money from Heritage Land Trust to deal with the problem, but private landowners use their own resources. In regards to quantifying the role of exotic and invasive purchased at nurseries, Mr. Dott stated that all nurseries in Kentucky carry some exotic and invasive species and that education is one of the more powerful tools for controlling the spread by purchase.
Dr. Obrycki, the State Entomologist, testified about invasive insect species such as the gypsy moth, Hemlock woolly adelgid, and the emerald ash borer. Selecting a few prominent examples of invasive insect species, Dr. Obrycki described the magnitude of the problem and the Commonwealth’s efforts to eliminate it. The University of Kentucky is attempting to minimize damage from the gypsy moth, which has infested Jefferson, Carroll, and Fleming counties. The university has set up trapping surveys to measure the growth of the moth infestation and to determine the value of different control measures. The Hemlock woolly adelgid is an invasive species that attacks Hemlock trees. The state cannot afford to treat all Hemlock trees and has taken the approach of treating soils of certain old growth tree stands and using a native predator beetle specie called laricobius nigrinus as a natural control because it feeds on the Hemlock woolly adelgid. The emerald ash borer is a metallic green beetle that feeds on ash trees. Kentucky has documented the growth and spread of the beetle using trap surveys. Kentucky has had an internal state quarantine since 2009 in hope of restricting the ash beetles coming into the state. The quarantine controls the movement of regulated materials such as hardwoods, nursery stocks, firewood, and lumber in and out of the state. There are natural controls such as the stingless wasps which feed on the emerald ash borer larvae.
Jody Thompson, forest health specialist with the Division of Forestry, explained that the cost of tree death from invasive species is significant to both private landowners as well as to cities and counties. A large ash tree can cost more than $2,000 to remove so a stand of trees can significantly burden public budgets. Tree deaths also create a visual blight and can create dangerous conditions from trees falling on people, cars, and homes.
In response to a question about what Kentucky is doing to address the problem of insect infestations and tree deaths, Mr. Thompson replied that Forestry is involved in the Hemlock project which involves treatment crews working with county agriculture agents. There is no indication of the efficacy of the project. Foresters work with landowners if the landowners have a management or forest stewardship plan. In that instance, Forestry helps to identify resources and provide education and training.
When asked what is needed to keep infestations from becoming a serious threat, Mr. Thompson stated that networks are needed. Networks could identify tasks and engage in early detection of species. These networks could lead to rapid response. There is no way to address the problem after the infestation has occurred. The best approach is to get ahead of the problem because treatment programs are too costly. The network in Kentucky is fragmented and cannot be as productive as it could be. In response to a question regarding past budget cuts in the Division of Forestry, the reliance on federal dollars, and ways to become more efficient, Mr. Thompson said that Forestry relies heavily on federal funds, but those funds are declining. Communication is important to improving efficiency. There are a myriad of offices involved in this effort but the individuals involved have cross cutting responsibilities. Eradication of exotic and invasive pests is one of many tasks, and sometimes the prioritization of the task is a problem.
In response to a question about whether purple traps are conducted as a state or federal project, Mr. Thompson stated that purple traps are likely set out by a contractor dealing with emerald ash borers. In response to a question about the type of insect that bores holes into wood such as outdoor decks and patios, Mr. Thompson said that the insect is likely a carpenter bee. The treatment, according to Dr. Obrycki, is to set traps to attract the bees and fill in the holes bored by the bees. Carpenter bees are a problem and are likely to recur.
After a motion and a second, the meeting adjourned at 2:30 PM.