PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering restricting boating near its dams on the Cumberland River.
The Paducah Sun (http://bit.ly/UFxWzK ) reported officials at the Corps’ office in Nashville, Tenn., are not discussing the plan publicly, but said a document on it will be released in the coming months.
The newspaper reports the likely restrictions would affect fishing both above and below the dams on all sections of the river, which rises in eastern Kentucky, flows through Middle Tennessee and then turns northward into Kentucky again.
Sgt. Garry Clark of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources said fishing is good because smaller fish get stuck around the dam and larger fish congregate to feed on them. However, the tailwaters of near the dams are dangerous because power generation causes turbulence that can capsize or capture fishing boats.
“It’s almost like being in a car and driving on ice,” Clark said. “You can’t get any traction. And most boaters don’t know when the generators are going to come on, so it’s unexpected.”
Signs at Kentucky and Barkley lake dams say boaters should not fish within 500 feet of the structures, but the limits aren’t consistently enforced.
Note: A recent news release from Sen. Lamar Alexander on the subject is below.
News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander:
MARYVILLE – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers urging reconsideration of their decision to restrict access to fishing areas in dam tailwater on the Cumberland River System, calling it “a significant source of enjoyment for Tennesseans and visitors from around the world.”
Alexander said: “Tennesseans have been fishing in the Cumberland River Dam tailwater for years and I don’t see any reason they shouldn’t be able to continue to do that. At the very least, if the Corps has some reason to change the rules, there ought to be a period of public comment and careful consideration of this.”
Alexander is the senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Water, which has jurisdiction over the Army Corps of Engineers.
In the letter, Alexander writes: “At a minimum, I believe that any change of this magnitude should be subject to a public comment period so those who enjoy fishing can have an opportunity to express their concerns and propose alternatives to improve public safety. Changes should only be considered after a thorough review of all public comments and suggestions.”
Alexander has requested a personal report on the situation from Colonel DeLapp, Commander of the Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prior to any change in practice.
The full text of the letter is below:
November 20, 2012
Lt. Colonel James A. DeLapp
Commander, Nashville District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 1070
Nashville, TN 37202-1070
Dear Colonel DeLapp:
I am writing to express my concerns about your decision to restrict access to fishing areas in dam tailwaters on the Cumberland River system and recommend that you reconsider that decision.
The Cumberland River system is a significant source of enjoyment for Tennesseans and visitors from around the world. Those who enjoy fishing and the businesses that serve them benefit from the open access of the Cumberland River system, and the revenue that is generated by these activities is an important part of Tennessee’s economy.
It is my understanding that the current practice has not resulted in a significantly higher risk to public safety than is experienced at other dams across the country. The current practice is strongly supported by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and they share my view that restricting access to tailwater areas is unnecessary. At a minimum, I believe that any change of this magnitude should be subject to a public comment period so those who enjoy fishing can have an opportunity to express their concerns and propose alternatives to improve public safety. Changes should only be considered after a thorough review of all public comments and suggestions.
I look forward to talking with you directly on this issue to discuss any proposed changes prior to their enactment. Thank you for your consideration of this request.