GRAND RIVERS, Ky. (AP) — The first public meeting to gather comments about a proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restrict access to water near dams along the Cumberland River and its tributaries attracted more than 200 concerned fishermen and residents.
The Paducah Sun (http://bit.ly/TOYbne) reports the meeting in Grand Rivers, Ky., also brought out a congressman and representatives for the governor and U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.
Many who spoke expressed frustration over the proposal, saying it isn't necessary.
The Corps said the regulation has been on the books for 16 years without being enforced. Officials announced in December that they planned to close boaters' access to the waters for safety reasons.
"I know a lot of people here may see themselves as experts," said Lt. Col. James DeLapp, who is Nashville District commander for the corps and led the session. "You guys are a good representation, but you aren't the general public. They have the opportunity to get pretty confused and be in danger."
He guided the audience through the dangers posed to boats by the Barkley Dam before taking comments from the crowd.
"I, personally, am disappointed because it looks like a decision has already been made," U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield said. "I have genuine concerns. I certainly understand the safety concerns. Any one life is more than we want to lose. There has been a good record here at Barkley. When this is over, I want to reappraise the situation and go back to Washington with it, so I can look after the interests of the people I have the responsibility to represent."
County leaders in Lyon and Livingston complained that they got no say in the decision, which they say will have a huge impact on their communities.
"There was an economic impact study in 2000," Livingston County Judge-Executive Chris Lasher said. "That showed the economic impact of Barkley Dam at $3 million. Now, we believe that number is at $4 million plus. It has an incredible impact. We have a 42-year history of fishing these waters with safety as a main concern."
Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White said the issue also hits close to the heart.
"I fish those waters. My granddad took me there, and I have taken my kids there. But not only that, it's where our heart is. Let us have a seat at this table."
Fishermen argued that the spillways are closed most of the year and the Corps could use other means — such as sirens and signs — to educate and warn boaters of the dangers.
Three more meetings — two in Tennessee and one in Kentucky — are planned.
Information from: The Paducah Sun, http://www.paducahsun.com