Buoy removal ends Corps fishing restrictions at dams

CELINA-Bouys installed here above and below Dale Hollow Dam and others across the Cumberland River region restricting fishing access near the structures are being removed and anglers’ rights are being restored thanks to legislation sponsored by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander.

The Freedom to Fish Act passed both houses of Congress and became law earlier this month enacting a two-year ban on plans the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had implemented to stop fishing immediately above and below the dam here and nine others on the Cumberland River, and the Corps is now complying with the law.

“The Nashville District will be removing the buoys recently placed below the following dams: Old Hickory, J. Percy Priest, Cordell Hull, Center Hill, and Dale Hollow,” a news release posted on the Corps’ website said.  “The Corps will also convert recently placed “Restricted – Keep Out” buoys above its dams on the Cumberland River and tributaries back to “Danger Dam” buoys, and the signs installed on upstream and downstream lock walls with the message “Restricted – Keep Out” will be replaced with signs that display the message “Danger – Dam.”

Alexander said in a news release from his office the Corps’ action was “the right way to end the fishing controversy,” and explained “this preserves the freedom to fish for generations of Americans who enjoy fishing below the dams on the Cumberland River, and does so in a way that gives the appropriate state wildlife agencies authority for boating safety.”

The Corps’ news release said “the enforcement of a restricted area below dams on the Cumberland River and tributaries is now the sole responsibility of the State of Tennessee and the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” agencies which the Corps explained they were “working with to implement measures for alerting the public of hazardous water conditions and restricted areas.”

The Corps also said “the water areas above and below dams continue to be very hazardous,” explained “state laws for mandatory life jacket wear below dams remain in effect,” and cautioned “all boaters to stay clear of all turbulent waters released from these structures.”

In addition to the two-year ban that became law June 3, the U.S. Senate also passed on May 15 Alexander’s permanent solution as part of the Water Resources Development Act.

Alexander’s release said “that permanent solution would prevent the Corps from establishing physical barriers, require that any further action be based on actual operating conditions–as opposed to 24 hours per day–and give sole responsibility for enforcement of restricted areas below dams to the states.”

The information said the U.S. House of Representatives has not yet taken up its version of the Water Resources Development Act, which Alexander said made it necessary to pass the two-year ban.

Alexander’s legislation was cosponsored by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). A similar version was sponsored in the house by U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Andy Barr (R-Ky.).