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Freedom to Fish Becomes Law

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced today the President signed 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.

"I appreciate the President signing the legislation into law and reversing the Administration's decision to place barriers and restrict fishing along the Cumberland River," Sen. McConnell said. "No one I know in Kentucky supported this plan--not fishermen and boaters, not local elected officials, and not the Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife. I saw that firsthand when I attended the Freedom to Fish Rally with local leaders at Barkley Dam in April, where I had a chance to talk with many area fishermen and business owners about the disastrous effect the Army Corps plan would have had on their livelihoods. Today, their voices were heard and the Administration's plan to install barriers along the river will stop."

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 the measure the President signed today. It places 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.


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.

On May 16, 2013, Senator McConnell introduced and the Senate passed separate legislation that ensures the Army Corps does not move ahead with implementing barriers before WRDA's final passage.

On May 21, 2013, the House of Representatives, led by Representative Ed Whitfield, passed the legislation and McConnell urged the President to sign it into law.

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