Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 24, 2013

Congress listens

Corpsplan to ban fishing below dams put on hold

By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI News Service

FRANKFORT — For those who think our politicians in Washington, D.C.,  seldom or never listen to their constituents, particularly when it is comes to federal regulations, we offer a note of encouragement.

When the U.S. Corps of Engineers announced plans to erect barriers to prevent people from fishing below dams on the Cumberland River, anglers who had enjoyed fishing below the dams for decades raised a loud voice of protest. Not only did those who regularly fished in the Cumberland River oppose the proposed ban, but they were joined by scores of others who concluded if the Corps can ban fishing below dams on the Cumberland River, it could do the same below dams on other rivers throughout the United States.

Well, members of Congress listened to the cries of their constituents and acted accordingly. As a result, fishing will continue to be  allowed below the dams on the Cumberland River for at least another two years, and likely much longer than that.

For that, people can thank U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who is the primary sponsor of the so-called Freedom to Fish Act and co-sponsors Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Bob Corker of Tennessee.

The U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval to the Freedom to Fish Act Tuesday and it awaits only the signature of President Barack Obama to become law. Because fishing on the Cumberland River is hardly a major national issue, President Obama likely will either sign the bill or allow it to become law without his signature.

The Corps of Engineers has never given a convincing reason for banning fishing below the dams and, because some of the best fishing spots on the Cumberland and other rivers are below dams, it is going to take some compelling reasons to convince those who fish there it should be banned.

The Freedom to Fish Act gives the Corps two years to convince people banning fishing below dams is a good idea. If it can’t, then expect Congress to continue to block any attempts to ban the fishing.