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Corps boat-blocking plan called ‘ridiculous’
Jan 04, 2013 11:50 am
A U.S. Corps of Engineer source calls the plan to block boats from approaching several area Corps dams “ridiculous.”
The Corps insider said installing cables to keep boats away from dams will be expensive – some estimates run as high as $3 million -- and extreme in terms of being a safety measure.
He agreed with the Corps’ contention that taking a boat – particularly a light-weight fishing boat – into the turbulent waters immediately below a dam during periods of generation can be dangerous and should be restricted.
But he said that the Corps’ plan to ban boats as far below the dams as 500-700 feet is overkill.
“Keeping boats about 50 feet away during generation would be sufficient,” he said. “I think that’s reasonable and I believe most fishermen would accept it. But to extend the ban as far down-river as they intend to do is ridiculous.”
The ban is scheduled to be in effect by April. Below such area Corps dams as Old Hickory, Cheatham and Cordell Hull, cables will be stretched from the lock wall to the riverbank. On the cables will be strung large, buoy-type barrels. Boats will be unable to pass beyond that point.
Fishermen can still fish from the bank in the cabled-off area, and the non-generating portion of the dam will remain accessible. However, it is in the fast water that fishing is best for species such as rockfish and sauger.
“It won’t be popular with fishermen,” warns Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Fisheries Chief Bobby Wilson.
Other outspoken critics of the Corps plan include professional fishing guides, fishing clubs and even U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander.
The TWRA’s Wilson questions whether the ban is unnecessary from a safety standpoint. He notes that safety precautions are already in place, including signs that warn boaters about the turbulent waters and a regulation requiring boaters to wear life jackets when fishing below the dams.
But some Corps officials decided those precautions aren’t sufficient, and intend to block boats from entering the churning waters.
Among the critics of the plan are professional guides Jim Duckworth of Lebanon and Nashville’s Bill Bethel.
“Installing and maintaining the cables will be very expensive, and comes at a time when the government is already broke,” says Duckworth. “It’s a total waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Bethel’s business will be particularly impacted because he does virtually all of his fishing below Cheatham Dam and Old Hickory Dam, specializing in catching the big rockfish that lurk in the fast water.
“What the Corps is doing will destroy some of the best fishing in Tennessee,” Bethel says. “It’ll wipe out an entire industry. And what is so frustrating is that it’s not necessary. I’ve fished below those dams all my life and never had an accident.”
The Corps has scheduled some upcoming “informational” public meetings, but dates and locations have not been announced.