Sequestration Could Hamper Boaters' 4th of July Fireworks - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Sequestration Could Hamper Boaters' 4th of July Fireworks

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by Adam Ghassemi

NASHVILLE, Tenn. It's something thousands of people come to see, but this year watching the fireworks over Music City by boat may not be worth the trip.

Many people launch from boat ramps or marinas on Old Hickory Lake. They pass through the lock at Old Hickory Dam to get to the Cumberland River and eventually downtown Nashville to watch the show.

Monday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the sequestration is forcing them to halt all overtime, including the annual three to four hours of overtime for a lock operator to work past 10 p.m. on Independence Day.

This year's show begins at 9:45 p.m. The Corps' Nashville District officials said the last boats will be allowed back through the lock at 9:15 p.m., but commercial barges could take priority.

"I think you're going to have a bunch of stranded boaters downtown," said Angela Bagsby who owns Black Jack Cove Marina in Old Hickory.

Bagsby said a lot of boaters may just stay on Old Hickory Lake or get a surprise night on the Cumberland.

"I have a feeling what's going to happen is a bunch of boaters are going to get down there, get stuck and not be able to get home," she said. "I really think it's going to be the smaller boats that are going to get put into some dangerous situations."

Avid fisherman Rusty Wood said it would be a nightmare if people had to wait until the lock reopened.

"It's dark out here. It's all woods. I just wouldn't like it at all. I'd be pretty upset," Wood said. "It could be very disastrous and you've got bugs this time of year. It would be a miserable evening waiting for them to open up the next morning."

The Corps' Nashville District says 71 recreational boats passed through the lock at Old Hickory towards downtown, and 68 returned through the lock on Independence Day 2012.

Andrea Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, which organizes the fireworks show, said they've been trying to find a fix for the issue for a few weeks. Arnold said an offer to pay for the employee's overtime was denied by Corps officials.

Corps spokesman Bill Peoples said by phone late Tuesday his office had no record of such an offer, but did receive a similar one from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency. Regardless, he said they aren't able to accept gifts that contradict federal law, which is what the sequestration is.

Peoples said outside of sequester cutbacks a lock operator should be able to get all boats through the lock by 2 a.m., or roughly four hours of overtime.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said Tuesday he understands this is a federal government issue, but hopes the Corps can find a fix.

"If there's a way for them to manage their funds where they can provide all the services they normally provide on the 4th of July, which is a critical date for the city and the citizens of Nashville and for people who use the Cumberland River, I would ask them to do that," Dean said.

That means hundreds of people may miss the downtown fireworks because of the overtime ban and end up watch smaller shows near Old Hickory Lake.

"I think it'll be great for cities like Hendersonville and it'll be great for Sumner County because that traffic will all stay on this side of the dam," Bagsby said.

Corps officials urge boaters who want to travel downtown to use the following boat ramps downstream of Old Hickory Dam:

       • Left Bank Recreation Area (1250 Cinder Rd., Old Hickory, TN 37138)

• E.N. Peeler Park (2043 Neeley's Bend Rd., Madison, TN 37115)

• Stones River Access (3135 Heartland Drive, Nashville, TN 37214)

• Lock 2 Park (2650 Lock 2 Rd., Nashville, TN 37214)

• Shelby Park (401 South 20th Street, Nashville, TN, 37206)

• Cleeces Ferry Left Bank Access Area (1001 Cleeces Ferry Rd., Nashville, TN 37209)

• Cleeces Ferry Right Bank Access Area (3801 Old Hickory Blvd. Nashville, TN 37218)

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