Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tn.), along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senators Bob Corker (R-Tn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), on Thursday introduced legislation that would stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from restricting fishing in the tailwaters below the Cumberland River dams.
Sen. Alexander’s legislation would prevent the Corps from enacting its plan, rather than simply delay it, as previously intended, because of the Corps’ continued commitment to move forward.
In addition to introducing the legislation, Sen. Alexander spoke by phone on Thursday with Secretary of the Army John McHugh, and announced that he will meet Monday with Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy to discuss the Corps’ planned restrictions.
Sen. Alexander said the Corps is pushing an “unreasonable plan to restrict fishing below Cumberland River dams that will destroy remarkably good recreational opportunities and many jobs.” The Corps plan would restrict public access to the fishing waters below 10 dams on the Cumberland River.
Sen. Alexander continued, “Water spills through the Cumberland River dams less than 20 percent of the time on average. 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.”
The senator, who is the senior Republican on the Senate committee overseeing Corps funding, also said that he “wanted to know exactly where the $2.6 million that the Corps plans to use to erect physical barriers is coming from during these tight budget times.” Sen. Alexander said Congress may also need to consider whether the funding required for the barrier system is in the best interest of the American taxpayer.
State officials have said safety concerns can be addressed by anglers adhering to current requirements, and by making changes to policy that would be far less restrictive than the Corps’ plan. Sen. Alexander has called on the Corps to reconsider its position, in the hopes that a compromise could find a way to better address safety concerns only when the waters are dangerous.