Freedom to Fish Act Signed Into Law
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (KY-01) today announced that the Freedom to Fish Act was signed into law earlier this afternoon. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives and Senate late last month, will place a two-year moratorium of the Army Corps of Engineer’s plan to erect barriers along the Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee.
“I am pleased that the Freedom To Fish Act was signed into law today," stated Whitfield. "This act resulted from the Corps of Engineers failure to listen to the people on an issue that impacts the livelihoods, way of life and local economy of western Kentucky. Working together with my colleagues in the Senate, Lyon and Livingston County Judges Wade White and Chris Lasher along with Kentucky and Tennessee Sportsmen, the people’s voice was heard and prevailed.”
Congressman Whitfield originally introduced this legislation. Senators McConnell, Paul, and Alexander led the effort in the Senate. Below is a timeline of the Congressman’s efforts.
December 20, 2012: Whitfield participates in conference call with County Judges White and Lasher, and Lt. Colonel DeLapp, Commander of the Nashville district of the USACE, to request that DeLapp consider all options to increase public safety. Whitfield also requests that the Corps allow public input before the barriers are constructed.
December 21, 2012: Whitfield sends a letter to Lt. General Thomas Bostick, Commanding General and Chief of Engineers for the USACE to relay Judges White and Lasher’s concerns regarding permanent barriers.
January 10, 2013: Whitfield attends a public meeting with nearly 200 other people hosted by USACE in Grand Rivers to seek public input regarding the proposed barriers.
February 5, 2013: Whitfield meets with Major General Michael Walsh to further discuss restrictions and to urge USACE to re-examine the decision to permanently restrict boating access to the tailwaters. Senator Lamar Alexander and Rep. Jim Cooper also attend. Whitfield and the county judges offer a compromise to restrict the tailwater zone only at times when the dam is operating.
February 15, 2013: Whitfield publicly demands that the USACE come up with an alternative to a permanent blockade along Cumberland River dams. Whitfield also releases a discussion draft of a bill that would require an environmental assessment study prior to taking any action to establish permanent blockades.
February 26, 2013: Realizing that the USACE is unwilling to settle for a reasonable alternative, Whitfield introduces H.R. 826, The Freedom to Fish Act to prevent the USACE from permanently restricting the tailwater areas and the installment of permanent blockades.
March 4, 2013: Whitfield and Senator Alexander meet with Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary for the Army for Civil Works. Whitfield asks Assistant Secretary Darcy to consider a compromise to restrict the tailwater zone only when the dam is operating, and you ask that she suspend implementation of the restricted areas and solicitation of public bids to build the buoyline barricades due to sequestration. Whitfield and Senator Alexander also present her with a letter on the same topic.
March 29, 2013: Whitfield authors an opinion-editorial vowing to continue fighting against the installation of permanent barriers along Cumberland River dams. He encourages Kentuckians to contact the Nashville District of the Corps at 615-736-7161 to tell them to stop with the intrusive assault on the Commonwealth’s fishermen.
April 1, 2013: Whitfield sends a letter to Lieutenant Colonel James DeLapp of the Nashville District of the Corps to request the information that was used by the Corps to determine that the permanent barricades were necessary and would increase public safety. Given the rushed nature in which the Corps has proceeded with the construction of permanent blockades, Whitfield requests a response within five business days.
April 5, 2013: The Nashville District of the Corps provides an interim response to Whitfield stating that it will take 6 months for them to fulfill Whitfield’s request for information.
April 10, 2013: Whitfield publicly questions why it would take the Corps so long to provide the documentation that seemingly would have been used for them to make their decision to install the permanent barricades.
April 12, 2013: Whitfield joins with Senators Lamar Alexander, Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell and Bob Corker, along with Representatives Hal Rogers (KY–05), Diane Black (TN–06), Stephen Fincher (TN-08), Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) and Andy Barr (KY-06) to call on the Corps to stop with their plan to install barricades.
April 13, 2013: Whitfield joins with Senators Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul and Lamar Alexander at the Freedom to Fish rally at Barkley Dam to discuss the “Freedom to Fish Act,” which would prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from establishing a restricted area, prohibiting public access to waters downstream of a dam.
April 30, 2013: The Corps announces that they are officially beginning to implement permanent full-time waterborne restrictions around the 10 dams on the Cumberland River and its tributaries. Enforcement of these restrictions will be effective when the placement of buoys and sufficient signs is completed at each dam. However, they state that they are not currently installing physical barriers at this time.
May 2, 2013: Whitfield once again called on the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to provide documentation that was used in their decision to restrict access to tailwaters near Cumberland River dams that would prohibit fishing. Whitfield and other elected officials have on multiple occasions requested the Corps to provide such information.
May 17, 2013: Whitfield publicly thanks Senators McConnell, Paul and Alexander for their work in getting the Freedom to Fish Act passed in the Senate. Whitfield also announces that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor assured him that the Freedom to Fish Act will be brought to the floor of the House.
May 21, 2013: Whitfield announces that his legislation, The Freedom to Fish Act, unanimously passed the House of Representatives. The legislation will place a two-year moratorium of the Army Corps of Engineer’s plan to erect barriers along the Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee.