President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. The measure supports the nation's water infrastructure and, among other things, prohibits the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from charging communities and industries for using water out of Lake Cumberland. It also keeps the Corps from making tailwaters below Wolf Creek and Barkley dams off limits to fishermen in boats close to the dams.
The Corps since the 1990s has been trying to bring Lake Cumberland in compliance with the Water Supply Act of 1958. The Act requires municipal and industrial users of water from the lake to enter into Water Supply Storage Agreements and annually pay water supply operation and maintenance costs (for Wolf Creek Dam), plus interest.
Compliance would impact cities of Somerset, Burnside, Albany, Jamestown and Monticello as well as McCreary County Water District, Woodson Bend Resort, General Burnside Island State Park, Kingsford Manufacturing Company, Eastern Kentucky Power Cooperative (John Sherman Cooper Power Station at Burnside) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Most Corps reservoirs in the nation are in compliance with the Water Supply Act but municipal and industrial water users at Lake Cumberland remain the only ones in the entire Cumberland River Basin without the required water storage agreements covering their use of reservoir storage, the Corps said.
A reallocation study, scheduled for completion this year at a cost of $570,000, was halted by congressional action during the early 2000a and reinstated in 2013.
“As Senate Majority Leader, I was proud to include a provision blocking the Army Corps from imposing costly fees on communities around Lake Cumberland,” said Senator Mitch McConnell. “I was happy to work with Senator (Rand) Paul and Congressman (Hal) Rogers to deliver a positive result on their behalf.”
Senator McConnell’s provision extends his 2013 legislation to block the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers from prohibiting boating access to popular fishing waters at Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams. When the Obama administration announced its intention to restrict access to these Kentucky waters, numerous community members contacted Senator McConnell for help. He agreed with Kentucky’s anglers that the federal government should not be restricting access to these waters, and he worked with his Senate colleagues from Kentucky and Tennessee to block the Army Corps’ overreach. In the 2018 water infrastructure legislation, Senator McConnell secured a five-year extension to his original provision, again blocking the Army Corps from prohibiting access to the tailwaters of Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams.
“For many Kentuckians, fishing the Cumberland River and its tributaries is a treasured tradition we must protect for future generations,” said Senator McConnell. “Working with local communities, I was able to secure a provision to continue preventing the Army Corps from blocking access to these popular fishing waters. I once again proudly led the charge to preserve this Kentucky pastime and vital source of tourism for the region," McConnell concluded.