Alexander Introduces Legislation Against Corps Fishing Limit - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Alexander Introduces Legislation Against Corps Fishing Limit

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander announced Thursday that he will introduce legislation next week to delay an Army Corps of Engineers plan to limit fishing along the Cumberland River in Nashville.

Alexander was joined by members of the community and representatives of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation at Old Hickory Dam, near an area that the Corps wants to restrict fishing in.

"Water spills through the Cumberland River dams less than 20 percent of the time on average," the senator said Thursday. "To close off the tailwaters to fishing 100 percent of the time would be like keeping the gate down at the railroad crossing 100 percent of the time: The track isn't dangerous when the train isn't coming, and the tailwaters aren't dangerous when the water isn't spilling through the dam."

Alexander said the legislation will require an environmental review that would delay the decision for a year, hopefully until they can reach a compromise. He said if that doesn't work he could prevent the Corps from using money to put up barriers in the area, but that's power he's not ready to use just yet.

The former Governor has support from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency as well as the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.

Longtime fishermen Paul Sibert raised his family fishing at Old Hickory Dam, literally next to the dam's base. He made sure the Senator knew he thought fishermen could fish here safely as long as they're trained.

"Everybody that fishes below needs to be educated and they need training on how to do it," Sibert said.

While every angler seems to have an idea of how to keep people from dying they do seem to agree life jackets and common sense are far better than restricting areas that already warn them of the dangers.

Two weeks ago, Alexander and U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) met at the U.S. Capitol with Maj. General Michael Walsh of the Corps to press their concerns about the Corps plan. He had also earlier met with Lt. Col. James DeLapp, Commander of the Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and has requested a meeting with the Assistant Secretary of the Army to express his concern.

Late last year the Corps of Engineers announced it was banning fishing above and below dams along the Cumberland River. Corps officials said deaths in recent years near spillways revealed they don't follow federal policies about restricting the areas. The move would make them comply with those regulations, the district Commander has said.

Harry Donnelly knows Old Hickory Dam like an old friend. He can tell you when it is and isn't a good idea to be near the spillway.

"According to what sound and what sirens I see I know where to go," Donnelly said. "We know when they blow that horn there's either a barge going in, or a barge coming out. We need to stay away from this side."

You can understand by looking at Thursday's generous catch why he's outraged the areas above and below dams on the Cumberland River could soon close. 

"We're at the point now it just seems like it's going to have to be a legislative act," he said.

Alexander pointed out that the Tennessee Valley Authority uses warning signs, strobe lights and horns at 22 of its 31 dams to warn of times when water will spill through the dams.

Thursday evening the Corps released a statement saying they showed Senator Alexander the hazards of fishing too close to the dam, but they cannot comment on pending or proposed legislation.

(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)

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