Senate passes bill to protect fishing rights on Army Corps land

The bill would put a two-year moratorium on the Army Corps plan to implement barriers and restrict fishing accesses to the tailwaters of the Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams along the Cumberland River.

McConnell introduced the bill after the Corps planned to put up barriers around a dam in his home state of Kentucky. 

The Corps said the barriers were necessary to protect fishers when water was passing through the dam. But McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued that people had been fishing on that water for decades and they shouldn’t be prohibited from doing so now.

McConnell made sure that the Water Resources Development Act, which passed in the Senate on Wednesday, included provisions prohibiting the Corps of Engineers from taking certain actions to establish a restricted area prohibiting public access to waters downstream, but because the House might take a while to act on that bill, McConnell wanted this separate measure passed. He said the House is likely to pass his bill next week.

“The water resources bill includes a permanent ban on implementing barriers, but in order to deal with the immediate threat we have a two-year moratorium which should give time for the water resources bill to become law and then it will be a permanent moratorium,” McConnell said Thursday. “Many Kentuckians are struggling in this economy and the last thing they need is the nanny state shutting down a critical local resource. Many in our state have depended on these waters for years and it’s outrageous for the federal government to make such a decision with complete disregard for the people affected most directly by the policy.”

Republican Sens. Paul, Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.) cosponsored the measure.

This article was updated at 6 p.m.