By Duane W. Gang The Tennessean
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander today said he will introduce legislation next week aimed at keeping fishing access in the tailwaters of dams along the Cumberland River.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of restricting access near the 10 dams it operates on the Cumberland and its tributaries. Restricting access is designed to boost safety, the Corps has said.
But Alexander, R-Tenn., says the policy is "unreasonable and unnecessary."
At a news conference near Old Hickory Dam, Alexander likened the dams to a railroad track.
"The track isn't dangerous when the train isn't coming," he said.
Alexander, joined by the head of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, has been pushing the Corps for a compromise.
Alexander and a host of local anglers in Tennessee and Kentucky say the Corps should only restrict access water is released through the dams -- the most dangerous times.
Alexander's proposed legislation would require the Corps to conduct an environmental impact review before restricting public access.
This process would take more than a year and give Congress time to determine whether the money needed to construct barriers preventing access is a good use of tax dollars, according to Alexander's office.
The Corps' commander in Nashville, Lt. Col. James DeLapp, has previously said the agency is following national Corps policy and must restrict access to hazardous waters near the dams. The agency cites three drowning s since 2009.