By THOMAS P. WEAVER, HORIZON Editor
CELINA-It’s not often news from Washington hits home in a small town like it has here lately, but U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander has made sure he’s kept his finger on issues facing the local community and his due diligence has paid off.
Since news broke regarding the possible closure of Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery, Alexander and many others have been working hard to negotiate a deal to secure the future of the facility and he has also spearheaded the opposition to the Corps of Engineers efforts to restrict fishing above and below Dale Hollow Dam and others across the region.
As reported in last week’s HORIZON, the fruits of his labor came to fruition as a deal was struck with the Tennessee Vallley Authority (TVA) to fund local hatchery operations for the next three years.
Clay County mayor Dale Reagan and chamber of commerce director Ray Norris were invited to join Alexander as witnesses to the historic signing of the document securing the future of the hatchery here and Reagan offered his gratitude to the senator for his work towards brokering the deal.
“Senator Alexander played a major role in keeping our hatchery open and we owe a great debt of gratitude to him and everyone else who worked to get this done,” Reagan said. “We were honored to be invited to witness the signing of the agreement and thankful for the positive results that came from it.”
With the hatchery agreement under his belt, it now looks as though Alexander’s efforts to stop the Corps from implementing their restrictions have also been successful.
After passing both the Senate and the House, the bill to put the Corps’ action on hold is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature.
“When the president signs this legislation, this will end the discussion,” Alexander said in a news release from his office. “Both chambers of the United States Congress have now told the Corps to immediately abandon its unreasonable efforts to restrict fishing and work with state agencies on a sensible policy to address safety concerns, instead of wasting taxpayer dollars and ignoring elected officials who are standing up for fishermen.”
The senator said he expected the Corps would work with state agencies to create “reasonable regulations that prohibit fishing while water is spilling through the gates of the dams 20 percent of the time, but allow fishing with appropriate precautions the rest of the time.”
Alexander’s news release said the bill that has passed Congress would stop the Corps from enacting any existing or new fishing restrictions for the next two years, while also delegating enforcement to state wildlife agencies.
The Senate has also passed Alexander’s permanent solution to stop the Corps as part of the Water Resources Development Act on May 15, as opposed to just a two-year ban.
That legislation would delegate enforcement to state wildlife agencies, and require the Corps to stop taking any further action until it has re-evaluated its plans. The House has not yet taken up its version of the Water Resources Development Act, which Alexander said made it necessary to pass a two-year ban in the meantime.
The Corps has proceeded with its fishing restrictions despite the Senate’s unanimous support for an amendment to the budget resolution in March that would allow Congress to prohibit the Corps’ plans, as well as repeated requests for compromise from Alexander, numerous other elected officials and the state agencies that enforce boater safety requirements.
“This has been a week of good news for Tennessee fishermen,” Alexander said. “First, the U.S. Senate (and now the House) voted to stop the Corps from implementing unreasonable restrictions on fishing below Corps dams on the Cumberland River, and, second, TVA has helped make sure Tennessee’s rivers and lakes will remain among the most prized trout fisheries in our country.”