Alexander Pushes U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers To Reconsider Fishing Restrictions

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tn.) on Tuesday, in a meeting with Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Capitol hosted by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), said that he will explore writing legislation to change the law in order to stop the Corps’ current plan to restrict access to dam tailwaters along the Cumberland River. Senator Alexander urged Maj. Gen. Walsh to consider alternatives that would keep people safe when dams are spilling while allowing full access to the tailwaters when the dams are not spilling.

Of the meeting, Senator Alexander said, “The tailwaters are only dangerous when the water is spilling through the dam, and when it’s not, tailwaters provide some of the best fishing areas in the U.S., attracting thousands of fishermen and creating hundreds of jobs in Tennessee and Kentucky. For example, water spills through the Center Hill dam about 14 percent of the time. The most logical solution would be to make the area safe when the danger exists: To close 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 is not dangerous when the train is not coming, and the tailwaters are not dangerous when the water is not spilling through the dam.”

Senator Alexander sent a letter on Tuesday to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, voicing his “strong opposition” to the Corps plan that would divert $2.6 million in federal money toward barriers restricting access to the tailwaters. In the letter, Senator Alexander highlighted the importance of the fishing areas, both recreationally and economically: “The Cumberland River system is enjoyed by Tennesseans and visitors from around the world, and the open access of the Cumberland River system is critical to our recreational fishermen and is an important part of Tennessee’s economy.”

Senator Alexander is the senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, which has jurisdiction over the Army Corps of Engineers.

The full text of the letter is below:

The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy

Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works)

108 Army Pentagon

Washington, DC 20310

Dear Assistant Secretary Darcy:

I am writing to express my strong opposition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to restrict access to fishing areas in tailwaters below dams on the Cumberland River system.

On December 6th, I met with Lt. Colonel James DeLapp, Commander of the Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to discuss the proposed restrictions.  While I understand the importance of improving boater safety, the Corps is planning to divert previously appropriated federal funding to implement the proposed restrictions.  I received a list of projects in the Nashville District that will be affected by the Corps’ decision, and I am very concerned about some of the proposed actions which include delaying maintenance activities and reducing services at recreation areas.

I also want to make you aware that the Corps’ actions will have a significant impact on fisheries in Tennessee and Kentucky, and the Corps’ proposed restrictions are opposed by both state wildlife agencies.  The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation believe that further restricting access to tailwater areas is unnecessary, and I agree with them.  You should consider reasonable alternatives to improve public safety, not unilaterally prohibit access to some of the highest quality fishing areas in my state.  Changes should only be considered after a thorough review of all public comments and suggestions, which will not happen if the Corps proceeds according to their proposed timeline. I am concerned that the proper environmental assessment has not occurred, and I am evaluating legislative options to prevent the Corps from going forward.

I would like to talk with you directly about the Corps’ decision before the Corps takes any further action.  The Cumberland River system is enjoyed by Tennesseans and visitors from around the world, and the open access of the Cumberland River system is critical to our recreational fishermen and is an important part of Tennessee’s economy.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to meeting with you.

Sincerely, 

Lamar Alexander

United States Senator


TWRA To Conduct Roadblocks On Agency Controlled Lands

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is planning to conduct roadblocks on several TWRA controlled or managed lands during the upcoming hunting seasons. TWRA controlled and managed lands include Wildlife Management Areas, public hunting areas, wildlife refuges and other properties under agency ownership or control including TVA property, Corps of Engineer lands, and the Cherokee ... (click for more)

New Task Force Focuses On Community Involved Bear Management

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency along with multiple partners have developed a new task force to focus on bear management in Sevier County and surrounding communities.  This new educational initiative is being referred to as the BearWise Task Force and is sponsored by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The program focuses on informing the ... (click for more)

Boyd Questions Effectiveness Of Read 20 Program; Coppinger Defends It

County Commissioner Tim Boyd said he questions the effectiveness of the Read 20 pre-K literacy program and wants the director to come before the County Commission to answer questions.   County Mayor Jim Coppinger defended the program, noting that it was the creation of former County Mayor Claude Ramsey.   Commissioner Boyd said the low literacy level hearing ... (click for more)

Corker Says Without Budget Reform, Washington Is “Laying A Huge Burden On Future Generations”

In remarks on the Senate floor  on Wednesday , Senator Bob Corker joined a number of colleagues to discuss the broken federal budget process.   “The processes that we have in place make it impossible for us to really deal with our country’s fiscal issues,” said Senator Corker. “Today is the perfect example of that: we pass a continuing resolution ... (click for more)

Jimmy Templeton Will Be Missed At The City Yards

If only we had known about the Chattanooga City Council's planned retirement send off for Jimmy Templeton of Public Works, the room would have been filled to overflowing with his friends and admirers - including me.   I have had the honor of knowing and working with Jimmy since the 1970's (and also knew his father "Big Jim").  Jimmy was a strong right hand for whoever ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Knobfather & Me

I’ve seen some beautiful things in my life. I’ve eaten dinner inside the Eiffel Tower with the city of Paris all aglitter below. I’ve been sprayed by champagne in the Dallas Cowboys’ dressing room after they won the Super Bowl. I’ve stood both at the top and at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I’ve snorkeled in the Great Exuma islands, learned to snow ski in the Austrian Alps, and ... (click for more)