President Obama signed the Freedom to Fish Act this week–legislation that places an immediate two-year moratorium on any attempt by the U.S. Corps of Engineers to block boating access above and below Cumberland River dams, while a permanent plan to keep access open works its way through the government channels.
In late 2012, the Corps’ Nashville District announced its intention to cut off boating access is specific zones above and below 10 dams on the 688-mile long Cumberland in Kentucky and Tennessee, citing safety concerns–a plan that immediately drew the ire of legislators, business owners and anglers. Despite the outcry, the agency went as far as installing buoys to mark the new boundaries last spring.
Sen. Mitch McConnnell (R-KY) and U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) stood at the forefront of the opposition, even participating in a “fish in” to heighten awareness of the issue, and were instrumental in helping the Freedom to Fish bill, a two-year statute barring the Army Corps from installing physical barriers that prevent boats from entering Cumberland tailwaters, move through the Senate and in front of the President, while a proposal to permanently ban the barriers, the Water Resources Development Act, plows through the House.
According to an article from the Lexington Herald-Ledger, Senator McConnell thanked the President for signing the legislation Monday–the last day he could either sign or veto the bill.
“I appreciate the President signing the legislation into law and reversing the Administration’s decision to place barriers and restrict fishing along the Cumberland River,” McConnell said. “No one I know in Kentucky supported this plan–not fishermen and boaters, not local elected officials, and not the Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife.”