The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is beginning to implement permanent full-time water access restrictions around Center Hill Dam and the other nine dams on the Cumberland River and their tributaries this week.
The restricted areas will be the minimum area allowed per Corps regulations upstream and downstream of locks, dams, and power plant facilities. All forms of water access within the restricted areas will be prohibited including boating, swimming and wading. The Corps continues to promote bank fishing in all areas that were previously approved, including areas adjacent to some restricted areas.
(CLICK LINK BELOW TO SEE MAP OF RESTRICTED AREAS AROUND CENTER HILL DAM)
The Restricted Area Boundary Lengths around Center Hill Dam will be:
Upstream Restricted Area Length.....400 feet
Downstream Restricted Area Length.....750 feet
All forms of waterborne access within the restricted areas will be prohibited including boating, swimming, and wading.
Unrestricted Area Boundary Length Downstream of Center Hill Dam will be:
Unrestricted Tailwater Area Boundary.....2,739 feet
Bank fishing is still permitted and is encouraged in designated/permissible areas.
Enforcement of these restrictions will be effective when the placement of buoys and sufficient signs is completed at each dam.
The installation of buoys and signs will continue through the spring and summer of 2013. The district will not be installing physical barriers at this time. Buoys and signs will be used to mark the restricted areas.
The district will be coordinating enforcement of the restrictions with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District initially announced plans last fall to implement restricted waterborne access to hazardous waters immediately upstream and downstream of all Corps-owned locks and dams, flood control dams and multi-purpose dams along the Cumberland River and its adjoining tributaries in accordance to ER 1130-2-520, Chapter 10.
Best described as industrial areas, the hazardous water areas above and below dams in the Nashville District pose a high level of risk for the public because of the Hydroelectric, spilling, sluicing and lock operations that are often present or begin with little or no notice. Turbulent boils and powerful currents are capable of swamping, capsizing, and even trapping boats and people in turbulent waters. Also during instances of emergency boater distress, project employees are not always immediately available to respond. This places emergency responders and other boaters at risk of a life-threatening situation during rescue attempts. Lock, hydropower, spilling and sluicing operations are disrupted after and during any emergency response effort. These incidents have far reaching impacts; the most important of which are families that have to deal with the loss of a loved one.
Since 2009, three fatalities, one serious injury and ten near misses/rescues have occurred in hazardous waters immediately downstream of dams on the Cumberland River and its adjoining tributaries. Life jacket wear has been ineffective in these areas, since all of the victims who drowned wore a life jacket.
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ announcement today that it would proceed with its proposed fishing restrictions below dams on the Cumberland River:
“This is a waste of taxpayer dollars and an unreasonable interference with the right to fish below the dams the public owns,” Alexander said. “We will therefore move ahead in the U.S. Senate next week with legislation to ensure the freedom of Americans to fish in these waters at times that the state wildlife agencies believe is consistent with reasonable efforts to ensure public safety.”
The senator’s statement follows an announcement by the Corps today, Tuesday, April 30, that it would proceed with restricting access to tailwaters areas below the dams in Tennessee and Kentucky on a full-time, permanent basis through the use of buoys and signage. The Corps is not proceeding with physical barriers at this time, though that has been part of the plan.
Alexander previously introduced the “Freedom to Fish Act” to prohibit the Corps from restricting access to the tailwaters, noting that the waters are only dangerous 20 percent of the time. Cosponsors included Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), as well as U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) in the House.
On March 23, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution to the budget that would allow for Congress to pass legislation prohibiting the Corps’ plan. Alexander has also held a range of meetings with Corps officials, encouraging the Corps to work with Tennessee and Kentucky wildlife agencies on a compromise to ensure safety.