Rally aims to gain opposition to dam restrictions

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Associated Press

Posted on April 12, 2013 at 4:01 PM

EDDYVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A rally this weekend is aimed at gathering more opposition to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to restrict fishing near 10 dams along the Cumberland River and its tributaries in Kentucky and Tennessee.

The Paducah Sun (http://bit.ly/113BPAC ) reports organizers of the Freedom to Fish Rally in western Kentucky have lined up speakers including Kentucky Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Rep. Ed Whitfield, as well as Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander.

The corps cited safety concerns when it announced in December that it planned to install barriers along portions of the river and that it would block fishing access to tailwaters.

The spots are popular for fishing because small fish get trapped and attract larger ones like catfish and bass.

Corps officials say boating too close to spillways at the dams is risky and that 14 people have died in tailwaters below dams on the Cumberland River since 1970, including three since 2009.

The proposal has sparked an outcry from opponents who say it will eliminate fisheries that bring in an estimated $3 million a year in tourism. They say the corps should consider less severe safety measures.

Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White said he hopes the rally attracts more attention to the issue.

"Any time politicians unite in a fight, it's something special," White said. "When people show support for them and back them up, it stiffens their spines even more. This is going to affect just about everyone — from the tourism industry to fisherman and campers. The restrictions will have a ripple effect to our entire area."

Whitfield said he has tried to work with the Corp on alternative solutions.

"It's been extremely difficult to get information," Whitfield said. "We've been working to understand the decision for six months, and they are just moving forward. All of us have asked them to slow down, maybe to not spend the money while sequestration is happening, but they have been unresponsive."

The corps hasn't said when it plans to implement the restrictions.

"There is no fixed schedule," said Freddie Bell, the corps' chief of its Natural Resource Management branch. "We will put out a news release when we are going to put in the restrictions and begin enforcement."

The rally is scheduled on Saturday at the pavilion at Barkley Dam.

"We want to elevate the issue, to give people a chance to express their opposition and displeasure with the corps," Whitfield said. "We would hope the corps would be responsive to the taxpayers, but we are just going to have to wait and see."

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Information from: The Paducah Sun, http://www.paducahsun.com

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