generic river rdsWASHINGTON, D.C. (10/10/18) — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) praised congressional passage of legislation to support our nation’s water infrastructure. The America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature, includes a number of Kentucky priorities secured by Senator McConnell.
“Kentucky’s water infrastructure holds vast potential for the future of our Commonwealth,” said McConnell. “Home to more than 1,900 miles of navigable inland waterways that support more than 13,000 jobs, I am proud to represent the heart of our nation’s inland waterways system. During the consideration of this important legislation, I had the ability as the Senate Majority Leader to ensure that Kentucky’s priorities were at the center of the national discussion.”
The legislation contains the following priorities benefiting Kentucky communities that Senator McConnell secured in the final agreement:
More than five decades ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers surveyed land at Rough River Lake for flood control purposes. However, it was recently discovered that the Army Corps made errors during its initial survey. In an attempt to rectify that mistake, the Army Corps announced it would charge Rough River property owners costly administrative fees to resurvey the land and resolve the issue. The total cost of these fees could have reached up to $4,000 per household, resulting in millions of dollars flowing into the federal government at the expense of this Kentucky community. When families learned of this, they contacted McConnell for his assistance. Working with Army Corps’ leadership and local leaders like Breckinridge County Judge-Executive Maurice Lucas, McConnell secured a measure in the water infrastructure bill prohibiting the Army Corps from collecting these fees from impacted Kentuckians. The McConnell provision included in the legislation also requires the federal government to reimburse all property owners who have already paid fees.
“Families in the Rough River community can finally breathe a sigh of relief,” said Senator McConnell. “The measure I secured will protect property owners from paying thousands of dollars in fees to fix decades-old surveying mistakes by the Army Corps of Engineers. This is a critical issue for Kentucky’s Rough River community, where the Army Corps’ errors threatened to stick local landowners with a steep bill. As Majority Leader, I was proud to lead the charge in crafting a commonsense solution to prevent this Kentucky community from paying for past government mistakes.”
“I want to thank Senator Mitch McConnell for his willingness to help the Rough River community,” said Breckinridge County Judge/Executive Maurice Lucas. “We have fortunately avoided a costly and burdensome process for all of our local landowners because of this legislation which Senator McConnell was able to secure as Senate Majority Leader.”
Senator McConnell’s provision extends his 2013 legislation to block the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers from prohibiting boating access to popular fishing waters at Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams. When the Obama administration announced its intention to restrict access to these Kentucky waters, numerous community members contacted Senator McConnell for help. He agreed with Kentucky’s anglers that the federal government should not be restricting access to these waters, and he worked with his Senate colleagues from Kentucky and Tennessee to block the Army Corps’ overreach. In the 2018 water infrastructure legislation, Senator McConnell secured a five-year extension to his original provision, again blocking the Army Corps from prohibiting access to the tailwaters of Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams.
“For many Kentuckians, fishing the Cumberland River and its tributaries is a treasured tradition we must protect for future generations,” said Senator McConnell. “Working with local communities, I was able to secure a provision to continue preventing the Army Corps from blocking access to these popular fishing waters. I once again proudly led the charge to preserve this Kentucky pastime and vital source of tourism for the region.”
“I'm thankful Senator Mitch McConnell has again pushed the Freedom to Fish Act through Congress in order to protect our rights to fish below all Cumberland River dams,” said Lyon County Judge/Executive Wade White.  “This continues to be an important revenue source for many businesses along our river in Kentucky and Tennessee and I'm thankful to know Senator McConnell's position as Majority Leader has paid dividends to those who love to fish.”  
Communities near Lake Cumberland contacted Senator McConnell when the Army Corps asserted it would potentially charge fees to water users at Lake Cumberland. Senator McConnell included language prohibiting the Army Corps from charging water users fees in the final water infrastructure bill. In the House of Representatives, Congressman Hal Rogers also has been the leading voice on this issue for a number of years.
“As Senate Majority Leader, I was proud to include a provision blocking the Army Corps from imposing costly fees on the communities around Lake Cumberland,” said Senator McConnell. “I was happy to work with Senator Paul and Congressman Rogers to deliver a positive result on their behalf.”   
“As the Counties and Cities within the Lake Cumberland Area continue to overcome budgeting issues from many directions, it is with great appreciation that we say thanks to Senator McConnell for relieving this potential added burden,” said Lake Cumberland Area Development District Executive Director Darryl McGaha. “With this action it will allow services to residents in our counties and cities from being adversely affected.”
Kentucky communities along the Green and Barren Rivers have asked the Army Corps to demolish certain locks and dams, in an effort to make the rivers healthier, safer, and more attractive for outdoor recreation. However, the Army Corps claimed they lacked the legal authority to supervise the demolition before the dams and associated land were conveyed. Working with the Army Corps and local stakeholders – including the Kentucky Nature Conservancy – McConnell secured language in the 2018 comprehensive waterways infrastructure bill giving the Army Corps the express authority to demolish these specific locks and dams.
In previous water infrastructure legislation, Senator McConnell secured authorization to transfer ownership of locks and dams from Army Corps to local stakeholders in the Mammoth Cave community, which sought to enhance the area’s river-based recreation and tourism. The language in the 2018 bill builds upon that effort ensuring the Army Corps has the authority to follow through with the demolition of these particular locks and dams.
“As Kentucky’s senior Senator, my greatest privilege is to help provide solutions to problems impacting communities in Kentucky,” said McConnell. “That’s why, when the Kentucky Nature Conservancy and a number of local communities asked for help with expanding opportunities for more recreational activity on the Green and Barren Rivers, I was happy to use my leadership position to help solve the problem. I secured legislation to give the Army Corps the authority to demolish unnecessary locks and dams to spur new economic development opportunities and tourism in the area.”
“Senator McConnell has long been a champion of TNC’s and our partners’ work to secure a healthier, safer, and more accessible Green River,” said David Phemister, Kentucky State Director for The Nature Conservancy.  “The Senator’s important support continues in this latest bill, and we are grateful. We also appreciate his critical role as Majority Leader in moving the entire bill towards passage.” 
Numerous Kentucky families and a significant part of our economy rely upon our inland waterways. However, many of the locks and dams owned by the Army Corps have fallen into disrepair. Senator McConnell included a provision in the 2018 water infrastructure legislation to transfer ownership of Kentucky River Locks and Dams 1-4 (KY 1-4) from the Army Corps to the Kentucky River Authority. Allowing local stakeholders to operate and maintain these structures and make necessary improvements can open new opportunities for many Kentuckians who benefit from this important water source.
“Whenever possible, Kentuckians want to get Washington bureaucrats out of their lives,” said McConnell. “That’s why I worked with Congressman Andy Barr to secure a provision transferring ownership of KY 1-4 from the Army Corps to the KRA. In Kentucky’s hands, these critical locks and dams will receive the attention necessary to protect an important water source for Central Kentucky.”
“The Finance Cabinet is pleased to have Senator McConnell’s support in turning over ownership of Kentucky River Locks and Dams 1–4 to the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said William M. Landrum III, Secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet.  “Acquiring these locks will be great for energizing economic growth across Kentucky communities. The Kentucky River Authority is clearly poised to effectively manage, maintain and promote these valuable assets for many years to come.”

SurfKY News
Information from Stephanie Penn

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