Army Corps of Engineers Looking to Block Fishing Access on the Cumberland River

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In 1996, a federal safety policy was established to prevent safety hazards for fishermen below dams.

Nearly twenty years later, the Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District, is proposing to follow through with the policy, adding barrier walls below ten dams in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Wolf Creek Dam on the Cumberland River is one of the dams that could be affected.

"This dam has been built since 1953, and people have been fishing below the dam since that time. There have been a few but very few drownings," says Russell County Judge Exec. Gary Robertson.

Legislators say there's been 14 deaths because of the tailwaters since 1970 collectively on all ten rivers.

The project will cost them $2.6 million dollars, blocking boat access to the tailwaters.

"The Corps is pretty much overriding everyone's argument that we ought to be given some type of public hearing process because they do operate on tax dollars," Robertson says.

Robertson wrote a letter to several lawmakers saying the public needed to be heard.

Congressman Ed Whitfield, Senators Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell, and Tennessee's Lamar Alexander responded with the Freedom to Fish Act opposing the Corps' plan.

The bill must be passed before June when the construction is expected to start.

Local fisherman say the tailwaters of the Cumberland River provides some of the best fishing in the state of Kentucky, which has Russell County officials worried about the future of tourism.

"I'm afraid it's going to affect it greatly here in Russell County because the lake and all the river fishing it's very popular," Robertson says, "We have fishermen come from Central Kentucky every weekend we have people come in from Louisville and Lexington, and other counties north of here to come and fish below the dam and they have proposed to put this barrier wall up."

Robertson says the Cumberland River's tailwaters are stocked with nearly 27 hundred fish per acre compared to Lake Cumberland's nine fish per acre.

On April 13, Congressman Whitfield and Senators Paul, McConnell, and Alexander will hold a news conference at Wolf Creek Dam at 11 am on the campground.

The public is welcome to attend.

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