Despite bill, signs are in place to prohibit fishing
By BILL MARDIS, Editor Emeritus Commonwealth Journal
Signs and buoys are already in place at Wolf Creek Dam that restrict fishermen’s access within 500 feet above and below the structure.
Tom Hale, operations manager for Lake Cumberland, said already existing buoys and signs warning of hazardous waters have been replaced with new signage restricting entrance into prohibited areas. He said enforcement of the restrictions has not begun because the Corps is still in the implementation stage.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has moved ahead with implementation of the restrictions in the face of much public opposition and passage by both the U.S. Senate and House of a “Freedom to Fish Act” that places a moratorium on implementation of the restrictions for two years.
Congressman Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, said in a news release this week that the “Freedom to Fish Act” is on its way to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.
“I’m pleased to see the House agree to a two-year delay of the Corps’ unconvincing tailwaters access restriction. With lake levels rising, folks are gassing up their boats and getting excited about the 2013 summer season," said Rogers. "The 'Freedom to Fish Act' will ensure lake enthusiasts have full access to prime fishing spots.” Fishermen claim the tailwater area up close to Wolf Creek dam is one of the top five fishing spots in Kentucky.
“This legislation keeps the Corps from moving forward with physical barriers, while allowing for signage and alert systems to inform individuals of potential water-flow changes. Communities around Kentucky’s fine lakes rose up in opposition to the Corps’ policy and now have reason to celebrate and fish to catch,” said Rogers.
The Army Corps of Engineers in 2012 re-interpreted a 1996 policy to permanently restrict access to the tailwaters of ten dams in the Cumberland River basin. In April, the Corps officially announced it would implement the new restrictions. However, this bill directs the Corps to remove any permanent physical barriers constructed for the restricted areas.
The Corps Nashville District headquarters has declined comment.
“We don’t comment on pending legislation,” said Bill Peoples, chief of public affairs for the Corps’ Nashville District. “It’s still legislation ... it hasn’t been signed by the President,” Peoples added.