President Barack Obama signed the Freedom to Fish Act into law today, placing a two-year moratorium on restricting fishing access to the tailwaters of dams on the Cumberland River.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wanted to install signage and a line of buoys separating fishermen from what they characterize hazardous waters. Legislators like Sen. Mitch McConnell felt that the economic impact on tourism outweighed any potential dangers.
“No one I know in Kentucky supported this plan," McConnell said. "Not fishermen. Certainly not boaters. Not local elected officials. And not even the Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife. I saw that firsthand when I attended the Freedom to Fish rally with local leaders at Barkley Dam in April, where I had a chance to talk to with many area fishermen and business owners about the disastrous effect the Army Corps plan would have had on their livelihoods.”
According to the USACE, three fatalities, one serious injury and 10 near-misses have occurred immediately downstream of dams on the Cumberland River since 2009.
The Corps of Engineers released a statement pledging to work with the state officials in implementing the law.