Freedom to Fish passes Senate

Posted May 22, 2013 at 2:12 pm

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s measure protecting access to critical Kentucky fishing waters has advanced through the Senat.

His legislation prevents a move by federal officials to barricade portions of the Cumberland River near the Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams. The federal barricades would negatively impact local Kentucky communities that rely heavily on fishing and tourism business.

McConnell’s bill was included within the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and stops the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from installing physical barriers that would block fishing access to the tailwaters of these dams, limits the Army Corps’ ability to designate “restricted areas” to times when operation conditions create hazardous waters—rather than 24 hours a day—and gives states the right to enforce public access to these areas.

“I thank Senators McConnell, Paul and Alexander for their work getting this legislation passed in the Senate.” U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (KY-01) said regarding the measure. “I will work to get the temporary delay bill passed in the House of Representatives next week. This is great news for boating and fishing enthusiasts in Kentucky.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor provided Whitfield with assurances that the temporary delay bill passed by the Senate will be brought to the House floor next week.

“Congressman Whitfield has worked hard to be responsive to his constituents in trying to mitigate the heavy hand of federal regulations that don’t always make sense. One-size-fits-all rules often lead to overreactions, and the concerns of local communities about loss of jobs and economic activity need to be taken into account. I want to thank Congressman Whitfield for bringing this issue to the attention of the House,” said Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Last month, Senator McConnell met with local elected officials, anglers and local residents at Lake Barkley to hear firsthand their concerns regarding the Army Corps’ plan and was told that the proposal to install barricades and to block access to areas which are popular with anglers in Kentucky would have a major impact on the communities near the Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams. McConnell took action because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, without cooperation or explanation, continues its plan to block fishing access to the tailwaters of these dams.

“Many Kentuckians are struggling in this economy and the last thing they need is the nanny state shutting down a critical local resource. 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,” Senator McConnell said.

Senator Rand Paul, also a co-sponsor of the bill, also weighed in on the passage of the measure.

“Passage of the Freedom to Fish Act today is a welcome alternative to the Army Corps’ burdensome plan, which would hurt Kentucky residents and businesses,” Sen. Paul said. “There is a deep and long love for fishing the tailwaters of the Cumberland River and I am glad we have taken action to help protect fishing access and Kentucky’s economy.”

On March 19, 2013, McConnell met with Lt. Col. Jim DeLapp, Nashville Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to discuss the Corps’ barricade plan. In the meeting, McConnell reiterated his opposition to the Corps’ plan and said he will continue to work to prevent them from installing the barricades. On February 12, 2013, McConnell sent a letter to the head of the Corps, Jo-Ellen Darcy, voicing his opposition to the Corps’ barricade plan.

On Feb. 28, 2013, Senators McConnell, Rand Paul, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker introduced the Freedom to Fish Act that would prevent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from installing physical barriers along portions of the Cumberland River, which would block fishing access to the tailwaters of the Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams. Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) introduced the House companion bill.

Many of the Freedom to Fish Act provisions passed in the Senate WRDA bill. While enactment of WRDA is contingent on House consideration—which may take several months or longer—Senator McConnell also introduced and the Senate passed separate legislation the House is scheduled to consider this week that will ensure the Army Corps does not move ahead with implementing barriers before WRDA’s final passage.

McConnell measure protects local

access along Cumberland River