U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell praised the House of Representatives today for passing his measure placing a two-year moratorium on the Army Corps plan to implement barriers and restrict fishing accesses to the tailwaters of the Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams along the Cumberland River. Representative Ed Whitfield led the effort to move the provision through the House.
Since the House has not taken up the Water Resources Development Act, which includes a permanent ban on implementing barriers, Sen. McConnell pushed through the Senate a measure dealing with the immediate threat by placing a two-year moratorium on installing barriers on the river. This provision gives time for the water resources bill to become law and provide a permanent moratorium.
"This is great news for fishing enthusiasts and business owners in Kentucky, and I want to thank Congressman Whitfield for helping to move it through the House of Representatives," Senator McConnell said. "For decades, Kentuckians and anglers from faraway have enjoyed the pleasure of fishing the tailwaters on the Cumberland River. For many in this area, it's become a rite of passage. So you can imagine the outrage at a decision by the Obama Administration to end this proud tradition in the name of big-government-certified safety and security."
McConnell added, "recently, I had the chance to talk directly with many area anglers and business owners about the disastrous effect the Army Corps plan would have on their livelihoods, and thanked them for making their voices heard. When that many people unite as one to stand against such a wrongheaded proposal, you'd think this administration would to listen. They didn't. So today, we are sending them a message by passing legislation to block them from restricting fishing access to Cumberland River. I urge the President to sign it into law without delay."
On March 19, 2013, McConnell met with Lt. Col. Jim DeLapp, Nashville Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to discuss the Corps' barricade plan. In the meeting, McConnell reiterated his opposition to the Corps' plan and said he will continue to work to prevent them from installing the barricades. On February 12, 2013, McConnell sent a letter to the head of the Corps, Jo-Ellen Darcy, voicing his opposition to the Corps' barricade plan.
On Feb. 28, 2013, Senators McConnell, Rand Paul, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker introduced the Freedom to Fish Act that would prevent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from installing physical barriers along portions of the Cumberland River, which would block fishing access to the tailwaters of the Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams. Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) introduced the House companion bill.
On May 15, 2013, the Senate passed McConnell's provision included in the Water Resources and Development Act preventing a move by federal officials to barricade portions of the Cumberland River near the Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams. Many of the Freedom to Fish Act provisions passed in the Senate WRDA bill.
While enactment of WRDA is contingent on House consideration--which may take several months or longer--Senator McConnell, on May 16, 2013, introduced and the Senate passed separate legislation that ensures the Army Corps does not move ahead with implementing barriers before WRDA's final passage. This is the legislation that the House passed today.