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Whitfield: Army Corps of Engineers Barricades on Cumberland River Dams are Disgraceful


Location: Washington, DC

With spring officially here, many Kentuckians will soon be spending more time doing the outdoor activities they love. For those living along the Cumberland River, this will almost certainly include boating and fishing.

Any outdoor enthusiast can tell you that for the best fishing around, you head to the waters immediately upstream and downstream of the locks and dams. These areas, commonly known as tailwaters, have some of the best fishing on the river.

Unfortunately, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) Nashville District has decided to take away our God-given resources by prohibiting access to these tailwaters. They are doing this by re-interpreting a policy that was written in 1996 that allowed access for fishing in these waters. Under this newfound interpretation, the Nashville District of the Corps will establish a 24-hour permanent restriction with guards prohibiting all waterborne access.

This is troubling news, especially during these tough economic times when many families are looking to stretch their hard-earned money a little bit further by forgoing vacations and doing activities closer to home. It is also troubling news for fishermen and surrounding businesses who rely on the economic activity created by fishing and recreation in the region.

Installing these barricades will cost taxpayers $3 million at a time when our nation faces $16 trillion in debt. Instead of spending millions of dollars ignoring the enormous public opposition to this plan, USACE should instead consider using this money to address our local infrastructure needs such as spending the money on infrastructure maintenance. In fact, we've been told that the Corps intends to forgo maintenance on our nation's infrastructure in order to install these barricades, despite there being no evidence of safety for this action.

I have tried working with the Corps in good faith to reach a compromise. I've attended public meetings; participated in numerous conference calls with Corps officials and county judges; and have worked with my fellow Congressmen and our counterparts in the Senate.

All of this has been for naught as it has become apparent that the Corps and their so-called public meetings have been nothing more than a means to placate the public. Thousands of fishermen and recreational enthusiasts have petitioned the Corps to offer solutions such as conditional closing of the tailwaters, but this has been to no avail. I find this disregard of public opinion by the Corps' Nashville District to be downright disgraceful.

Unlike the Nashville District of the Corps, I believe we must fight for the interests of Kentuckians. That is why I have introduced the Freedom to Fish Act, which prevents the Corps from installing permanent blockades along the Cumberland River. I did this as a last resort, and I want to assure the fishing enthusiasts around Kentucky that I will do everything in my power to ensure the Freedom to Fish Act is signed into law. Unfortunately, the Corps is moving faster than ever to put the barricades up as a means to circumvent the democratic process. That is why I need your help to show support for our efforts by calling the Nashville District of the Corps at 615-736-7161 and telling them to stop this intrusive assault on our Commonwealth's fishermen. It is time for the Army Corps of Engineers to start prioritizing tasks that serve the well-being of the nation instead of attacking one of our favorite pastimes- fishing.

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