Commonwealth Journal

February 4, 2014

McConnell challenges Obama over Duskytail Darter wrangle

by Bill Mardis
Commonwealth Journal

Washington, D.C. —

A little minnow in Lake Cumberland has made the big time.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell on the U.S. Senate floor Tuesday pointed a finger at policies of President Barack Obama’s administration, accusing it of siding with the tiny duskytail darter over the economic well-being of thousands of southeastern Kentuckians.
In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week announced the level of Lake Cumberland won’t return to normal operation this summer because in its headwaters are duskytail darters, a 2 1/2-inch-long minnow on the federal endangered species list.
McConnell, normally a sedate personality, must have been in rare form on the Senate floor while berating the Obama Administration’s protection of the minnow.
“The absurdity of the Obama Administration’s posture on this issue is manifest. First, the Administration is protecting a fish from water,” McConnell suggested.
“Let me repeat that,” he continued. “Radical environmentalist in the Obama Administration don’t want this fish to be exposed to too much water. What next? Protecting birds from too much sky? To the people of southeastern Kentucky the President’s ‘Year of Action’ is apparently beneficial only if you happen to have gills.”
McConnell sounded in a filibuster mood.
“Mr. President, the story of the darter would be humorous if it weren’t so harmful to the economic well-being of thousands of Kentuckians. The misguided policy will have harmful consequences for this region of Kentucky.”
McConnell during his speech outlined economic benefits of Lake Cumberland.
“Lake Cumberland is a signature tourist destination in my state, and one of the economic pillars of McCreary, Clinton, Laurel, Russell, Pulaski and Wayne counties,” he said. The senator recalled that the lake was lowered in 2007 due to problems at Wolf Creek Dam.
“The past seven years of reduced water levels have not only hurt small businesses that rely on tourism, but have also strained local governments, as towns have had to lower their water intakes,” said McConnell. “Marinas have had to spend valuable dollars on boat ramp upgrades; dollars that could have been spent on growing businesses, hiring new workers and enhancing local commerce.” McConnell also said the lake drawdown has deterred tourism with a misconception among potential visitors that the lake is no longer suitable for boating, fishing and water sports.
“Each year, Lake Cumberland brings to the local community $200 million in economic activity and employs on average 6,000 people,” McConnell said. “Understandably, those in the local community have been anxious to see water levels return to normal.”
The senator said Carolyn Mounce’s comment: “Bureaucracy run amok” best describes the situation. He also mentioned Mounce’s comments about visitors at travel shows in Louisville and Cincinnati being excited about Lake Cumberland returning to normal levels. Mounce, executive director of Somerset-Pulaski Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she owes boat show visitors an apology for promoting a full Lake Cumberland.
Another local, J.D. Hamilton, owner-operator of Lee’s Ford Marina and Resort, was quoted by McConnell as being disappointed that Lake Cumberland would be kept lower this year to protect a fish. He quoted Hamilton as saying “The Corps is keeping its word to the fish but not on the economy.”
McConnell concluded by saying “ ... my friend and colleague, Senator Rand Paul and I, along with our colleagues in the House, Congressman (Hal) Rogers and (Ed) Whitfield, wrote the Administration calling for an end to this intolerable further delay. I hope the Obama Administration will take heed and concern itself more with endangered jobs and endangered livelihoods of actual Kentuckians than with the possible endangerment of this water-adverse minnow.”