U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, (KY-01), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, today joined with his colleagues in the House of Representatives and counterparts in the Senate to call on the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to stop the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from installing permanent barriers along Cumberland River dams. Those signing the letter include Senators Lamar Alexander, Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell and Bob Corker, along with Representatives Hal Rogers (KY--05), Diane Black (TN--06), Stephen Fincher (TN-08), Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) and Andy Barr (KY-06).
"We are writing to urge you to take immediate action to delay the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' efforts to restrict public access to fishing areas below Corps dams on the Cumberland River system in Kentucky and Tennessee," stated the Senators and Representatives in their letter. "We also continue to press for passage of the Freedom to Fish Act, which has been introduced in the House of Representatives and in the United States Senate."
The Senators and Representatives go on to encourage the exploration of alternatives to permanent restrictions of the tailwaters.
The letter continues, "We all understand the importance of improving boater safety, and we have asked the Corps to explore alternatives -- such as signs, sirens and lights -- and to work with state wildlife agencies in Kentucky and Tennessee to improve safety. We hope that the Corps will work with the state wildlife agencies to develop a sensible plan to promote public safety when water is spilling through the dam, not unilaterally prohibit access to some of the highest quality fishing areas in our states."
Whitfield has been an outspoken critic of the Corps' plan. Below is a timeline of Whitfield's work on this issue.
December 20, 2012: Whitfield participates in conference call with County Judges White and Lasher, and Lt. Colonel DeLapp, Commander of the Nashville district of the USACE, to request that DeLapp consider all options to increase public safety. Whitfield also requests that the Corps allow public input before the barriers are constructed.
December 21, 2012: Whitfield sends a letter to Lt. General Thomas Bostick, Commanding General and Chief of Engineers for the USACE to relay Judges White and Lasher's concerns regarding permanent barriers.
January 10, 2013: Whitfield attends a public meeting with nearly 200 other people hosted by USACE in Grand Rivers to seek public input regarding the proposed barriers.
February 5, 2013: Whitfield meets with Major General Michael Walsh to further discuss restrictions and to urge USACE to re-examine the decision to permanently restrict boating access to the tailwaters. Senator Lamar Alexander and Rep. Jim Cooper also attend. Whitfield and the county judges offer a compromise to restrict the tailwater zone only at times when the dam is operating.
February 15, 2013: Whitfield publicly demands that the USACE come up with an alternative to a permanent blockade along Cumberland River dams. Whitfield also releases a discussion draft of a bill that would require an environmental assessment study prior to taking any action to establish permanent blockades.
February 26, 2013: Realizing that the USACE is unwilling to settle for a reasonable alternative, Whitfield introduces H.R. 826, The Freedom to Fish Act to prevent the USACE from permanently restricting the tailwater areas and the installment of permanent blockades.
March 4, 2013: Whitfield and Senator Alexander meet with Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary for the Army for Civil Works. Whitfield asks Assistant Secretary Darcy to consider a compromise to restrict the tailwater zone only when the dam is operating, and you ask that she suspend implementation of the restricted areas and solicitation of public bids to build the buoyline barricades due to sequestration. Whitfield and Senator Alexander also present her with a letter on the same topic.
March 29, 2013: Whitfield authors an opinion-editorial vowing to continue fighting against the installation of permanent barriers along Cumberland River dams. He encourages Kentuckians to contact the Nashville District of the Corps at 615-736-7161 to tell them to stop with the intrusive assault on the Commonwealth's fishermen.
April 1, 2013: Whitfield sends a letter to Lieutenant Colonel James DeLapp of the Nashville District of the Corps to request the information that was used by the Corps to determine that the permanent barricades were necessary and would increase public safety. Given the rushed nature in which the Corps has proceeded with the construction of permanent blockades, Whitfield requests a response within five business days.
Arpil 5, 2013: The Nashville District of the Corps provides an interim response to Whitfield stating that it will take 6 months for them to fulfill Whitfield's request for information.
April 10, 2013: Whitfield publicly questions why it would take the Corps so long to provide the documentation that seemingly would have been used for them to make their decision to install the permanent barricades.