Rough waters in store for Corps

Rough waters are in store for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., will introduce legislation next week to delay the Corps’ plans to restrict fishing below dams along the Cumberland River. Rough waters are in store for the U.S. Army Corps of...
Feb 21, 2013
 Photo: Sara McManamy-Johnson

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., speaks with reporters, boaters and anglers Thursday at Old Hickory Dam after announcing legislation planned to delay a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers measure that would fully block access to tailwaters below dams along the Cumberland River.

Rough waters are in store for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., will introduce legislation next week to delay the Corps’ plans to restrict fishing below dams along the Cumberland River.

Rough waters are in store for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., will introduce legislation next week to delay the Corps’ plans to restrict fishing below dams along the Cumberland River.
“Water spills through the Cumberland River dams less than 20 percent of the time on average,” said Alexander. “To close off the tailwaters to fishing 100 percent of the time would be like keeping the gate down at the railroad crossing 100 percent of the time: The track isn’t dangerous when the train isn’t coming, and the tailwaters aren’t dangerous when the water isn’t spilling through the dam.”
Alexander said his legislation would require the Corps to conduct an environmental impact review before it could restrict public access to fishing waters below 10 dams on the Cumberland River.
He said this process would likely take more than a year and would include multiple comment periods, as well as give Congress time to determine if the funding required for the safety barriers on the Cumberland River is in the best interest of public safety and the American taxpayer.
Alexander also happens to be the senior Republican on the Senate committee overseeing Corps funding.
“These are public waters, owned by the citizens and held in trust by the state, and they offer some of the best fishing to be found anywhere,” said Mike Butler, chief executive officer of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation. “The notion of completely banning boats from our world-class tailwater fisheries without any public input is alarming, and the statistics show that fishing below the dams is exceedingly safe.”
Doug Markham, I&E coordinator for TWRA, region two, and longtime fisherman, also spoke against the Corps’ proposed plan.
“It’s insulting to fishermen in Tennessee and to the state in general to just shut off our access to waters we’ve fished forever with virtually no forewarning that it was coming,” said Markham.
He said Tennessee’s boaters and fishermen are safe and responsible boaters who take safety education seriously. He also said that the TWRA has offered to work with the Corps to find alternatives to fully restricting access but has been largely ignored.
Alexander has already spoken with the Corps’ Nashville district commander, Lt. Col. James DeLapp, and has requested a meeting with the assistant secretary of the Army to make his case.
“There are more reasonable ways to achieve both the goals of public safety and allowing taxpayers to enjoy these good fishing opportunities,” said Alexander.

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