U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, (KY-01), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, said today that he has formally introduced legislation to prevent the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) from installing permanent blockades along the Cumberland River.

This measure, known as the "Freedom to Fish Act", enables boating access to river tailwaters to continue for sportsmen and recreational fishermen.

Whitefield told us:

“I am fed up with the Corps’ lack of public consideration in their process to prohibit access to tailwaters near dams on the Cumberland River. I’m also frustrated that the Corps in numerous meetings at all levels has placated the public rather than attempting to work with us to reach a compromise.  This has left me with no other choice than to seek a legislative solution to the Corps’ overreach.”

According to Whitfield, on December 5, 2012, the USACE, Nashville District re-evaluated its operations for Restricted Areas for Hazardous Waters at dams, which were originally implemented on November 29, 1996.  Despite the current practice to allow fishing in the tailwaters since 1996, the Corps recently came up with a new interpretation of their regulations and determined that they needed to permanently restrict access to the tailwaters.  Therefore, the Nashville District changed its Operational Management Plans at the following locations in Kentucky: Barkley, Wolf Creek, Laurel and Martins Fork dams. Dams in Tennessee are also effected.

Whitfield's office, in a press release, said: As a result of the new interpretation, the USACE, Nashville District announced they plan to establish a 24-hour permanent restriction prohibiting all waterborne access to waters immediately upstream and downstream of all dams.  Installation of signs, buoys and physical barriers at projects will occur by April 2013.  Once these control measures are in place, the Corps will maintain a presence that will prohibit waterborne entry and activities within the restricted area boundaries.

Since learning of the Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s decision to fully enforce restricted boating access along the dams, Whitfield has tried seeking alternative solutions to permanent blockades.