At the urging of county and state elected leaders, Congress has blocked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to barricade prime fishing waters along the Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee, including Barkley Dam.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell announced June 3 the president signed his measure placing a two-year moratorium on the Army Corps plan to implement barriers and restrict fishing accesses to the tail waters of the Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams along the Cumberland River.
Rep. Ed Whitfield led the effort to move the Freedom to Fish Act unanimously through the House of Representatives. The Freedom to Fish Act, which was introduced by Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, was co-sponsored by Kentucky Sens. McConnell, Rand Paul and Bob Corker.
This news is exactly what Lyon County Judge/Executive Wade White, Livingston County Judge/Executive Chris Lasher and KACo leadership were hoping for.
KACo Executive Director/CEO Denny Nunnelley praised the work of the local county officials in bringing the Corps’ river blockade to the attention of Kentucky congressmen. “We applaud the unity demonstrated by the counties, and the expediency with which Senators and Congressmen pushed through this legislation. It reassures us that our legislators understood the issues, and were behind the counties 100 percent.”
“What a huge victory for our county and everyone near the Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee,” said Judge White. “This would have hurt so many people economically. It’s a big shot in the arm for us to get this signed by the president, to know that the $3-$4 million tourism impact to these communities is saved.”
White noted, “There were so many involved in this and such a bipartisan effort I can’t thank them all. But the statement I want to make is this: The Nashville District Corps of Engineers overstepped its bounds. They used incorrect drowning data, they refused to be transparent, they redacted needed information from freedom of information documents, they ignored the people, local officials, state officials, our governor, federal legislators, and even as this bill was on the president’s desk, the Corps still placed restrictive buoys at the dams.”
“I hope this sends a clear message to any federal agency in this part of the state that we will not allow our freedoms to be trampled upon – we will stand together. The Corps of Engineers in the Nashville District has had trouble hearing us. I think they heard us loud and clear this week. I hope everyone will be safe and go enjoy our freedom to fish!” concluded White.
Livingston County Judge Lasher echoed White’s remarks, stating, “I am extremely pleased with the outcome of protecting a four-decade long tradition of fishing the tail waters of Barkley and Wolf Creek dams. It has been a remarkable team effort from the thousands of sportsmen and women all the way to our state and federal legislators. The people spoke and our legislators heard and understood the issue at hand.”
“We sincerely appreciate all those who were involved in keeping this area open to fishing and protecting our rights,” said Lasher.
Sen. McConnell stated in a press release from his office, “No one I know in Kentucky supported this plan — not fishermen and boaters, not local elected officials, and not the Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife. I saw that firsthand when I attended the Freedom to Fish Rally with local leaders at Barkley Dam in April, where I had a chance to talk with many area fishermen and business owners about the disastrous effect the Army Corps plan would have had on their livelihoods. Today, their voices were heard and the Administration’s plan to install barriers along the river will stop.”
In a news release, Rep. Whitfield was quoted, “I am pleased that we were able to halt the Corps’ overreaching plan to take away some of the best fishing in Kentucky. The Corps has tried rushing through with their plan to implement permanent restrictions without providing any information on their rationale for doing so.”