FRANKFORT, Ky. (1/23/13) – SurfKY News has just received a letter forwarded by Lyon County Judge Wade White regarding the recent push towards new regulations for local Dams by the Army Corps of Engineers. This letter was sent to both Judge White and the Army Corps of Engineers by famed fishing legend, Bill Dance. The following is the precise content of the letter…
Dear Col. DeLapp:
I am writing in regards to your announced plan to restrict boat access in the name of safety to certain water areas directly upstream and downstream of all dams along the Cumberland River and its tributaries.
As an ardent Tennessee sportsman, to say I’m deeply concerned about such a plan, both for myself and my fellow fishermen, is putting it mildly. I have been an active participant in the sport of fishing all my life. In fact, for more than the past forty-five years, I’ve also made my living producing a national TV series on the sport of fishing.
On the matter of safety at these facilities, I’ve fished many, many times above and below most of the dams that would be affected by this policy and often at similar places across our country! Naturally, I’m fully aware of the unique safety requirements they present, but from personal observations, am also confident that the vast majority of fishermen who frequent them are responsible sportsmen who stay informed, constantly practice the special rules of safety required there, and also do their part in educating the public about it.
Having the fortunate abi9lity to reach large numbers of the sporting public via my television shows, I have always made it a point to do all I could regarding boating safety as can be witnessed by receipt of the following safety awards, some of which you may be familiar with:
• U.S. Dept of the Army – Commanders Award for Public Services – Water Safety
* National Water Safety Congress – Award in Recognition of Outstanding Contributions in the Prevention of Water Related Accidents and Drownings throughout the Nation.
* U.S. Coast Guard – Award for Promotion of Water Safety
Safety awareness tips also are often included in our broadcasts. As recent as last summer (2012), a 30 second tip cautioning anglers about the dangers of tailrace fishing near dams was included as a public service announcement in one of our Bill Dance Outdoors TV shows broadcasted nationally!
Furthermore, I can personally attest to the admirable job done in the area of safety in the subject dam and other river areas by personnel of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. They know their business well, and in my view, they always attend to it!
Consider also that, according to the TWRA, in the past 32 years, only 7 boating related deaths have occurred below Tennessee Corps projects! Five of those deaths occurred because the persons involved were not wearing life jackets! Of the remaining two, one was wearing an inflatable jacket tha the person failed to inflate, and the other one did not properly fasten their PFD!
With this in mind, I am totally at a loss to understand why such a disruptive and potentially costly plan is even being considered! Also, without exception, every one of many interested parties that I’ve talked to about this – from management to enforcement personnel to sportsmen – feels the same! No one can even fathom a reason and it seems that no one who does know is willing to offer the courtesy of an explanation.
Have there been an unusual number of water safety incidents in these subject areas that for some strange reason have not been reported to the public? Is there something invisible and new in the subject waters that we have not been privy to?
Admittedly, we all do know that accidents will occasionally happen anywhere large groups of people do anything. And some of these happen because not everyone follows the safety rules all the time. But that’s why we have a very effective enforcement agency that does a great job in the subject areas and elsewhere throughout our great state. The statistics substantiate it!
Above, I referred to your proposed plan as disruptive and potentially costly! I say disruptive because throughout the existence of these dams, fishermen have considered them some of the most high quality and productive fishery zones in Tennessee. Just a few of the dams involved are near the homes of almost one million anglers who consider your tailwaters great fishing destinations. Restricting access to the most productive areas of them will cancel the thousands of regular trips enjoyed by recreational anglers and numerous commercial fishing guides in the affected areas. Much of the considerable money they spend on buying licenses and other purchases in nearby communities will disappear, thus drastically affecting nearby economies, some of which are already in despair.
In the interest of fairness to all and the continued long-time respect of sportsmen for the Corps of Engineers itself, I cannot urge you enough to first publically explain why such a plan is even being considered, and also to explore every possible alternative to it.
Information provided by Judge Wade White
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