Senate affirms 'Freedom to Fish' Cumberland River

May 15, 2013

Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate has passed bill which contains Sen. Mitch McConnell’s measure protecting access to critical Kentucky fishing waters, according to a news release from the Kentucky senator's Washington office.

McConnell’s legislation prevents a move by federal officials to barricade portions of the Cumberland River near the Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams. The federal barricades would negatively impact local Kentucky communities that rely heavily on fishing and tourism business. McConnell’s bill was included within the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which passed the Senate a few minutes ago, the release said.

The measure stops the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from installing physical barriers that would block fishing access to the tailwaters of these dams, limits the Army Corps’ ability to designate “restricted areas” to times when operation conditions create hazardous waters — rather than 24 hours a day — and gives states the right to enforce public access to these areas.

“Many Kentuckians are struggling in this economy and the last thing they need is the nanny state shutting down a critical local resource. Many in our state have depended on these waters for years and it’s outrageous for the federal government to make such a decision with complete disregard for the people affected most directly by the policy. Blocking fishing access to the tailwaters of Lake Barkley and Wolf Creek will not only rob fishermen of a beloved pastime, it will also impair tourism in the area and negatively affect the Kentucky economy,” McConnell said in the news release.

Last month, McConnell met with local elected officials, anglers and local residents at Lake Barkley to hear firsthand their concerns regarding the Army Corps’ plan and was told that the proposal to install barricades and to block access to areas which are popular with anglers in Kentucky would have a major impact on the communities near the Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams. 

McConnell took action because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, without cooperation or explanation, continues its plan to block fishing access to the tailwaters of these dams.