With bipartisan support, the Freedom to Fish Act has passed both houses of Congress and now awaits President Obama’s signature to become law.
Will he sign it? I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t. But with this administration, you never know what’s going to happen. It tends to like government regulations, lots of regulations. And it doesn't seem to care much for recreational fishing, as evidenced by the National Ocean Policy and the process used in creating it.
When/if the bill becomes law, it would remove access restrictions to recreational fishing along the Cumberland River in Tennessee and Kentucky.
The bill was drafted in response to a recent Army Corps of Engineers decision to restrict access downstream of 10 dams, citing safety concerns. Anglers didn’t like the proposal, saying they would lose some of their most productive waters. In addition, their respective legislative representatives criticized the Corps action, saying that it was overreaching.
“In this political climate it is refreshing to see a bill receive bipartisan support in the interest of recreational anglers and boaters alike,” said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association.
“While angling and boating access are important to the area’s economy, the proposed barriers along the Cumberland River were also unnecessary and counterproductive from a safety standpoint.
“Particularly concerning with these proposed closures was the lack of public input that went into the Army Corps’ decision,” noted Robertson. “If anglers had been provided an opportunity to weigh in on this proposal, Congressional action might not have been needed. It is critical that the public be allowed sufficient opportunities to provide input on any policy decision that might affect the public’s ability to access and enjoy public resources.”
The Freedom to Fish Act prohibits restrictive areas on the Cumberland River by the Army Corp for two years and also requires the Corps to remove any physical barriers that have been constructed since Aug. 1, 2012. Any future restrictions must be based on operational conditions that might create hazardous waters, and must follow an extensive opportunity for public input.
More information on the Freedom to Fish Act and the Cumberland River issue can be found at Keep America Fishing.