"Bureaucracy run amok!”
That’s how Carolyn Mounce describes the decision this week by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to comply with federal environmental laws and regulations to keep Lake Cumberland this coming summer at the same level as last summer to protect an endangered tiny fish.
Mounce’s reaction is typical. Frankly, the little fish has hit a big fan. Powerful people are weighing in, taking swings at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. The want the lake to return to normal operation, meaning a summer pool stage at tree line.
First, let Mounce have her say. She is responsible for promoting the tourism industry in Pulaski County, and frankly she is appalled at the Corps’ decision to hold the level of the lake down another summer.
More about Mounce in a moment, but first, let’s set the stage. The duskytail darter, sometimes called a tuxedo darter, has been found in a section of the Big South Fork River that was inundated a half century by the lake before the drawdown in 2007.
While the lake was down the little fish wiggled downriver to new spots closer to the lake. According to the Endangered Species Act, if the lake is raised the fish won’t survive in still deep water. Flowing water over a boulder-strewn river bed is a darter’s favorite haunt.
Mounce has enthusiastically delivered the message of Lake Cumberland returning to normal. “The dam is fixed! Lake Cumberland is back to normal! Come on down, the water’s fine,” Mounce has proclaimed at sport shows all winter.
The Corps’ decision slapped her in the face. “I just returned Sunday from attending tourist and travel shows in Cincinnati and Louisville,” Mounce related. “The shows were crowded ... people were engaged. They want to talk about Lake Cumberland. They are excited about the lake returning to normal operation. Some said they had gone to other lakes, but now they’re coming back to Lake Cumberland.”