By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Questions about restricted access to Laurel Lake were answered — and area lake enthusiasts can breathe a sigh of relief.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is finalizing plans to implement restricted waterborne access to hazardous waters immediately upstream and below all Corps-owned locks and dams, flood control dams and multi-purpose dams along the Cumberland River and its adjoining tributaries.
Freddie Bell, chief natural resources management branch, said for one, fishing buffs need not worry. “As for fishing on the lake — c’mon down and fish,” Bell said. “The area impacted by the restrictions is very small at Laurel Lake.”
Best described as industrial areas, the hazardous water zones above and below dams in the Nashville District pose a high level of risk for the public because of the hydroelectric, spilling, sluicing and lock operations often present or which begin with little or no notice.
Bell said Turbulent boils and powerful currents are capable of swamping, capsizing, and even trapping boats and people in turbulent waters. Also during instances of emergency boater distress, project employees are not always immediately available to respond. This places emergency responders and other boaters at risk of a life-threatening situation during rescue attempts. Lock, hydropower, spilling and sluicing operations are disrupted after and during any emergency response effort. These incidents have far reaching impacts; the most important of which are families that have to deal with the loss of a loved one.
Since 2009, three fatalities, one serious injury and ten near misses/rescues have occurred in hazardous waters immediately downstream of dams on the Cumberland River and its adjoining tributaries. Life jacket wear has been ineffective in these areas, since all of the victims who drowned wore a life jacket.
In order to increase public safety and address physical security issues, the Nashville District reevaluated the District’s policy and made the decision to fully implement the existing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ER 1130-2-520, Chapter 10 <http://publications.usace.army.mil/publications/eng-regs/ER_1130-2-520/c-10.pdf> . The Nashville District will inform the public prior to the installation of signs, buoys and physical barriers based on the respective restricted area boundaries at Barkley, Wolf Creek, Laurel River, Martins Fork dams in Kentucky, and Cheatham, J. Percy Priest, Old Hickory, Cordell Hull, Center Hill, and Dale Hollow dams in Tennessee.
The restricted areas will be the minimum area allowed per Corps regulations upstream and downstream of locks, dams, and power plant facilities. All forms of water access within the restricted areas will be prohibited including boating, swimming and wading. The Corps continues to promote bank fishing in all areas that were previously approved, including areas adjacent to some restricted areas.
Public information meetings are planned at four locations in January 2013. Detailed information for each meeting’s time and location is highlighted in the left pane of this web page.