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Corps says dam restrictions will save lives
Jan 11, 2013 12:00 am
The U.S. Corps of Engineers says its controversial plan to block boats from entering the turbulent waters immediately below some of its hydro-generating dams is based on safety concerns.
“We have no ulterior motive,” a Corps spokesman says. “We’re doing it to save lives.”
That will be the Corps message at a series of upcoming public meetings to explain the new regulation scheduled to go into effect in April.
The first meeting will be held Thursday, Jan. 15 at McGavock High School. It runs 6-8 p.m. The second meeting in Middle Tennessee is Jan. 17 at Baxter’s Upperman High school, also 6-8 p.m. Two meetings will be held in Kentucky.
For additional information visit the Corps of Engineers website or call the Nashville office.
The purpose of the meeting is not to seek input from fishermen who oppose the plan – the Corps says its decision is final – but rather to explain why it deems it necessary.
“Those waters are extremely dangerous,” says the Corps spokesman. “If a boat capsizes, the occupants will be pulled under and drowned. It has happened numerous times before, and it will happen again if we don’t take steps to prevent it.”
The Corps intends to stretch a cable from the dam’s lock wall to the opposite bank. On the cable will be large, buoy-like barrels. Boats will not be able to go past that point.
The cables will be stretched below most Corps dams, including Old Hickory, Cordell Hull and Cheatham. They will be placed approximately 500-700 feet down-river from where the turbulent water churns through the dam’s turbines.
Fishing from the banks below the dams will still be permitted.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency opposes the Corps policy, but will be charged with enforcing it, just as it is responsible for enforcing the mandatory life-jacket requirement below the dams.
Anglers who enjoy fishing in the fast waters for such species as rockfish are up in arms. They say the fishing isn’t as good further downstream.
“The Corp is forcing something on the public against the public’s will,” says Lebanon guide Jim Duckworth. “It’s going to be expensive to implement and maintain (estimates range up to $3 million) and it’s not needed.”
Nashville guide Bill Bethel agrees.
“I’ve fished below those dams all my life and never had a problem,” he says. “They already have warning signs and warning signals and life-jacket requirements. At what point should fishermen take responsibility for themselves?”
The Corps spokesman said that not all boaters are as experienced as Duckworth and Bethel.
“Some don’t realize how turbulent and dangerous those waters are,” he said. “They don’t understand the risk. Small boats can quickly capsize, and when they do, someone is probably going to drown. It’s heart-breaking to have to inform someone that their son or brother, father or husband has drowned. No fish is worth that.”