LYON COUNTY, Ky. (1/2/2013) - As most of you may already know, the Corps of Engineers Nashville District Commander James DeLapp has ordered to proceed with barricading the tailwaters of Barkley Dam and nine other dams on the Cumberland River. In doing so, I believe he is embarking on a disastrous move that will harm our tourism industry and local fishing industry and destroy a decades-old fishing heritage thousands enjoy. I won’t stand by and watch this happen – too much is at stake.
Livingston County Judge Executive Chris Lasher has joined the fight with us, and Congressman Ed Whitfield is leading the charge on the federal level. We all had a conference call with James DeLapp on Dec. 20. We spoke for 55 minutes but were not successful at changing Commander DeLapp’s mind on proceeding with the barricades. Therefore, it’s imperative that we reach those in Washington, DC who can stop this before it happens.
One of the topics we discussed was his plan to spend over $2 million on these barricades. Locally, there may be approximately $350,000 that will come out of current projects. We asked which projects would lose funding—he stated he did not know, and it was not his responsibility to know. We are hearing rumors (but can’t confirm) possibly a campground may close, and other facilities may not open or lose the funding in an already tight and depleted budget. This is an irresponsible move to spend more money when it’s not available and hurt our local economy by doing so.
Commander DeLapp claims he must proceed with a permanent barricade to keep boaters and fishermen out because of a regulation from 1996. The second reason he gives is due to the possibility of accidental drowning below the dam. So, I have investigated both of these claims, and here is what I found.
1. The Corps of Engineers have their own management plans that clearly state a permanent barricade is not practical. Their own plan also claims a barricade would not hold up under the debris flowing through the dam. The Corp’s plans state how important it is to keep this area open to fishermen and boaters. Adding more buoys and horns and signage to warn and educate the people is more efficient and meets all regulations from 1996. Why is Commander DeLapp refusing to go by the Corp’s plans, which are common sense approaches and will satisfy everyone?
2. The Corps posted on their website that 881 have died on their waters since 1970. Over the past 42 years, 14 have died below their 10 dams. Commander DeLapp will, despite establishing a permanent barricade, allow fishing from the bank. It’s our understanding that, possibly, more than half of the 14 drowned from bank fishing below the 10 dams as opposed to fishing from boats. So, over the past 42 years, there may have been seven drowned from boats at 10 dams. Another important issue is what will happen if someone falls into the water, and our Rescue Squad is not able to get a boat in to rescue them because of the barricades? Commander DeLapp claimed they were still studying that issue.
Unfortunately, we do not know the exact number of drowning victims from the bank or by boat, as the Corps refuses to release that information. I asked Commander DeLapp that question, and he said he didn’t know the number. I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Nashville Corps to get the drowning reports, which are only 3 pages long for the 14 drowning victims. They wrote back and advised it would cost our county $3,492.00 to get those documents. The Corps stated it would require 78 man hours and 400 copied pages to give us the (42 page) documents we wanted. This is preposterous. In my opinion, the information on how 14 drowned is an important piece of information, especially if you plan to barricade the best fishery around. Is the Corps claiming they have not researched bank drowning versus boating drowning accidents below the dams? If they had, they would have this information readily available.
Last week, we mailed a 40-page brief outlining other common sense option and why a barricade will not work to General Bostick, Chief of Engineers in Washington, DC. We have sent copies to the legislators that may help us. We have another conference call planned with Congressman Whitfield next week. We have received support statements from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, Pennyrile Area Development District, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, all of which are in support of stopping the barricades. We are glad to have these agencies supporting our cause and fighting along with us. We started an online petition and paper petition, and we have more than 500 signatures and countless calls of support so far.
We are hearing from people all over Kentucky and the surrounding states who visit these waters yearly; but, most importantly, we have neighbors who make their living as commercial fishermen catching fish and bait in these waters. We have businesses that depend upon the tourists who drive long distances to fish below the dam. I grew up fishing here with my grandfather, and now I take my kids and fully plan to take my grandkids one day. We have the freedom to stand up and be heard when government oversteps its bounds. If we stand by and allow this to happen, it will hurt our economy, and we will lose another part of our freedom to fish and boat in these waters. I am fighting back daily and ask for your help.
Two things that you can do right now:
2. Please make plans to show up at the Corps of Engineers public meeting about these barricades and be heard. The meeting will be at the Badgett Playhouse Theater (across from Patti’s restaurant) in Grand Rivers on January 10, 2013, from 6-8:00 p.m. Bring as many with you as possible, and dress warm, as we may fill up the theater!
Lyon County Judge Executive
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