A measure to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from restricting access to the Cumberland River near locks and dams is moving through Congress.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell added the amendment to a water resources bill that passed the Senate today. In a news release, McConnell said restricting access to the water directly below dams would have a devastating effect on fishermen and the local economy.
“Many Kentuckians are struggling in this economy and the last thing they need is the nanny state shutting down a critical local resource,” McConnell wrote. “Many in our state have depended on these waters for years and it’s outrageous for the federal government to make such a decision with complete disregard for the people affected most directly by the policy. Blocking fishing access to the tailwaters of Lake Barkley and Wolf Creek will not only rob fishermen of a beloved pastime, it will also impair tourism in the area and negatively affect the Kentucky economy.”
But Corps officials say the proposal is intended to close up a loophole and help the Corps comply with federal regulations that require them to limit access to the dams; mechanical processes can begin with little notice, and powerful currents can trap people and boats. Since 2009, three people have died in similar accidents.
Freddie Bell is the Chief of Natural Resources with the Army Corps’ Nashville District. He says the Corps’ proposal is about public safety.
“This is not about restricting fishing,” he said. “There’s great fishing on the lakes. The areas we are restricting is at the dam site itself and it represents only a small fraction of the total tailwater area below our lakes.”
McConnell’s amendment was included within the Water Resources Development Act, which passed the Senate today and now goes to the House.