The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers holds a public meeting in Paducah in January to talk about new restrictions above and below ten Cumberland River dams. The move sets up no access zones for boating, swimming or wading.
The proposed restriction for Lake Barkley Dam is 400 feet upstream and 700 feet downstream. The Corps previously had safety standards close to the dams, but Lieutenant Colonel James DeLapp says a recent review of Corps rules found the Cumberland River was not up to current standards.
“We had not formally restricted the areas, we had just cautioned people of the hazards and then attempted to have folks out of the area when we were operating either the lock or dams. And we found out that wasn’t working and not in compliance," he said.
DeLapp says the most recent version of the regulations governing Corps dams dates from 1996.
Since 2009, three have died below Cumberland River dams. Corps officials say there have also been 10 near misses and one serious injury. DeLapp says that all three who died were wearing lifejackets, proving current safety standards are ineffective in protecting the public close to the dams.
The areas downstream of dams are popular sites for anglers because fish tend to congregate there. DeLapp says people may still fish from the bank. He says the agency plans to work with Kentucky and Tennessee Fish and Wildlife workers to enforce the restriction zones.
Buoys and lines will mark the restriction zones. The cost of putting them into place is estimated at around $2 million. DeLapp says the projects are high priority.
The Corps hosts public meetings at four locations in January, though exact dates have not been set yet. DeLapp says because the regulations are already on the books, a public comment period is not required, but the Corps wants to have a chance to explain the proposal and give the public a chance to weigh in. In addition to Paducah, the Corps will hold meetings in Nashville, Tenn., Cookeville, Tenn., and Somerset.