Corps plan to limit water access could mean cuts elsewhere - WSMV Channel 4

Corps plan to limit water access could mean cuts elsewhere

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV-AP) -

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' plan to restrict access to water near dams along the Cumberland River and its tributaries has already angered fishermen and now that could be spreading.

As the Corps moves toward placing barriers at its dams, to pay for it they plan to cut a few essentials that could impact more than just those who enjoy the sport.

The sport that keeps Mercer Adams coming back to the waters in Middle Tennessee day after day now finds itself facing a continued challenge throughout the area.

"Well, I don't think it's any good, myself," Adams said. "They need to leave things alone."

Corps officials have warned that boating too close to spillways at the dams is risky, so it plans to install barriers at 10 dams throughout the region.

To pay for it, the Corps plans to cut corners elsewhere.

For example, at Percy Priest Lake, the Corps plans to save $275,000 by not cutting grass or cleaning public bathrooms as often. It could also delay maintenance and equipment repairs.

All of this could impact the area for anyone who visits.

"People come out here, they like the hiking trails and they like just walking around and enjoying the scenery," said visitor Matt Hotsinpiller. "And then, not taking care of the grass, taking care of the trees out here? I don't see any good that can come out of it."

The barrier plan - totaling $2.6 million - continues to move forward in spite of strong opposition.

Wildlife activists promise a fight here at home while U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, continues to do the same in the nation's capital.

"To restrict fishing below the dam 100 percent of the time - even though the water spills through the dam 20 percent of the time - would be like keeping the gate down on a railroad crossing 100 percent of the time," Alexander said in February.

The senator's budget amendment that would stop the project continues to work its way through the legislative process.

Corps officials declined an interview for this story, saying the budget process continues in Washington and could change, along with its plan.

In a statement Tuesday, Sen. Alexander said:

"The senate unanimously passed my amendment to the budget, sending a clear message to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it should stop wasting $2.6 million in taxpayer money enforcing these unnecessary and unreasonable fishing restrictions. Instead, the Corps should work with the wildlife agencies in Tennessee and Kentucky to develop a sensible plan to promote public safety when water is spilling through the dam. In the meantime, I will continue working to pass the Freedom to Fish Act to stop the Corps from going through with its plan."

The Corps has reported 14 deaths in the tailwaters below the dams on the Cumberland River since 1970, including three since 2009.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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