In a bipartisan move applauded by the sportfishing industry and the broader sportfishing community, both Houses of Congress passed the Freedom to Fish Act which will remove unnecessary access restrictions to recreational fishing along the Cumberland River in Tennessee and Kentucky. The bill passed on May 21, and now awaits the President’s signature.
The bill, which is strongly supported by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), prohibits the Army Corps of Engineers from installing physical barriers that bar boats from entering the tailwaters of ten dams along the Cumberland River. In addition to prohibiting access to prime fishing areas, these barriers would impede potential rescue efforts in these same areas.
“In this political climate it is refreshing to see a bill receive bipartisan support in the interest of recreational anglers and boaters alike,” said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. “While angling and boating access are important to the area’s economy, the proposed barriers along the Cumberland River were also unnecessary and counterproductive from a safety standpoint.”
“Particularly concerning with these proposed closures was the lack of public input that went into the Army Corps’ decision,” noted Robertson. “If anglers had been provided an opportunity to weigh in on this proposal, Congressional action might not have been needed. It is critical that the public be allowed sufficient opportunities to provide input on any policy decision that might affect the public’s ability to access and enjoy public resources.”
The Freedom to Fish Act prohibits any restrictive area on the Cumberland River by the Army Corp for two years and also requires the Army Corps to remove any physical barriers that have been constructed since August 1, 2012. Any future restrictions must be based on operational conditions that might create hazardous waters, and must follow an extensive opportunity for public input.
The legislation is now waiting President Obama’s signature. More information on the Freedom to Fish Act and the Cumberland River issue can be found at ASA’s angler advocacy website, www.KeepAmericaFishing.org.