Enactment of the Freedom to Fish Act in early June forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to back off its plan to restrict access below 10 dams on the Cumberland River and its tributaries.
In the wake of the bill’s signing by President Obama, the Corps immediately announced that it would comply and begin removing barrier buoys.
“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,” said Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who championed the legislation.
“Now the Corps is required, by law, to stop wasting taxpayer dollars and ignoring elected officials who are standing up for fishermen.”
The Corps had planned to establish permanent restrictions, which angered anglers and boaters, as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Additionally, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said that it would not enforce the Corps’ policy.
Under the law, anglers and boaters retain access when conditions are safe, with state agencies determining when it is not.
In response, the Corps said, “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.
“This work will begin immediately. 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. 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.’”
The Corps pointed out that three accidents have occurred below Tennessee dams since June 1.
“The water areas above and below dams continue to be very hazardous,” it said. “State laws for mandatory lifejacket wear below dams remain in effect. All boaters are cautioned to say clear of all turbulent waters released from these structures.”
(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)