Freedom to Fish Act fights for Tennessee waters

Reprinted by permission of the Knoxville News Sentinel and Charlie Daniel

Fishermen: Act Now

Last November, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District decided you shouldn't be allowed to fish below the dams they control. No good reason was given, and nobody was initially asked their opinion — not even the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), who is baffled by the decision. Bassmaster Magazine Editor James Hall called the Corps to the carpet over the issue in his January column, and now thanks to efforts of the TWRA and activist anglers, there may be a chance to stop this absurdity.

What follows is a press release issued by Doug Markham of TWRA in support of the Freedom to Fish Act.

Background

Two years ago, the Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a plan to barricade waters below 10 dams along the Cumberland River system where sportsmen have fished for decades. However, the Corps chose not to alert anglers or nearby county and city officials to this unprecedented action until just three months ago, and then only after U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander requested that the Nashville District commander hold public meetings.

Today, the Nashville District is moving forward to barricade waters in Tennessee and Kentucky despite overwhelming sportsman opposition to its plans. In addition, local businesses, county executives, both states’ governors, both states’ legislatures and both states’ U.S. senators and congressmen have pleaded for alternatives to the Corps’ rush to restrict boat access.

Congressional delegations in Tennessee and Kentucky have been ignored by Nashville District Commander James DeLapp when asking him for additional information or even face-to-face meetings.

Sportsmen may ask, “Why should someone outside these two Southern states be alarmed and moved to action?” Simply put, the public waters where you fish could be next. Once the Nashville District succeeds in barricading access to public waters, other Corps districts almost certainly will follow.

Sportsmen should also feel moved to action because no one in the United States should be ignored by a federal agency that is fully supported by tax dollars. And speaking of tax dollars, we are all aware of our nation’s budget problems; you should know these unnecessary barricades will cost at least $2.6 million to install, and that does not include annual maintenance costs. Sportsmen need to make a nationwide stand and stop the Corps’ lack of transparency and disrespect for taxpayers and our elected officials.

This action in Kentucky and Tennessee is a perfect example of government overreach, wasted tax dollars and a federal agency that will do whatever it takes to ignore the public’s heritage, traditions and economic needs. This issue has become so serious that Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield and Tennessee Senator Alexander recently filed companion legislation they named the Freedom to Fish Act.

It is important that everyone, regardless of state residency, contacts their U .S. senators and congressmen and asks them to support or co-sponsor U.S. Senate Bill 826 and House Bill 421.

Also, there is a Facebook page — Freedom to Fish Act — where visitors can learn much more about this issue, ask questions, locate congressional representatives across the country, and join the fight to protect the public waters so that everyone everywhere continues to have the freedom to fish.

For more information feel free to contact Doug Markham (Doug.markham@att.net) or the TWRA 615-781-6631.

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