Congress approves bill barring fishing restrictions near dams on Cumberland River

bestep@herald-leader.comMay 21, 2013 

David Keith of Middletown, Ohio, along with his dog Ziggy, fished at Lee's Ford Resort Marina, off West Ky. 80 in Nancy. The marina is on Lake Cumberland, which is expecting big crowds this year since water levels have increased after dam repairs.

CHARLES BERTRAM | STAFF

The U.S. House on Tuesday approved a measure barring enforcement of controversial fishing restrictions at dams on the Cumberland River, according to Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to cut off fishing from boats in zones above and below dams because of safety concerns. Three people had been killed in turbulent waters below dams since 2009, the Corps said.

People who fish the river and lakes protested, however, saying the rule would eliminate some prime fishing spots, including tailwaters at Wolf Creek Dam in Russell County and at Lake Barkley in Western Kentucky.

McConnell, along with GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee, introduced a measure barring the Corps from enforcing the restrictions.

The Senate first passed the measure as part of a larger bill. It could have taken months for that proposal to get through the House, so McConnell then pushed through a separate rule barring the Corps from putting the fishing restrictions in place for two years. That's the measure the House approved Tuesday.

Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, who represents Western Kentucky, pushed the moratorium in the House, McConnell's office said.

President Barack Obama must sign the two-year moratorium to make it law.

In a news release, McConnell decried the Obama Administration's "wrong-headed" effort to end the tradition of fishing below the dams.

The language that would make the ban permanent will be acted on as part of the larger water-resources bill, McConnell's office said.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1

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