, Corbin, KY

State News

June 7, 2013

Keeping them fishin’

Freedom to Fish Act nixes restriction plans


By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service

Thanks to federal legislation, fisherman can continue casting their lines and bait below dams at Lake Cumberland and Lake Barkley.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had planned to restrict access to the popular fisheries but Congress passed the Freedom to Fish Act, pushed by Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, and Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield and supported by most of the Kentucky Congressional delegation.

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Deputy Commissioner Benjy Kinman told the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment Thursday that the ban took effect immediately, preventing planned “full-time” restrictions while a permanent solution to the Corps of Engineers’ concerns about safety is worked out, he explained.

Last year the Corps’ Nashville District announced it planned to restrict fishing above and below dams on the 688-mile long Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee because of safety concerns.

Kinman said the Corps’ concern was likely prompted by litigation in Tennessee regarding safety and accidents below dams in that state.

He said when some or all of the gates are opened at the larger dams it can create a “reverse flow” and cause some boats to capsize.

But Kinman said Livingston County Judge/Executive Chris Lasher and Lyon County Judge Wade White in Kentucky brought the move to public attention and created the move to stop the Corps’ plans.

The Freedom to Fish Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama earlier this week, places a two-year moratorium on restrictions.

“They are good partners with us,” Kinman said of the Corps of Engineers. “We just kind of agreed to disagree on this issue, and try to work it out. I think we’ve educated them now on the importance of the fisheries, and I think they’re going to work with us.”

Committee Chairman Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, thanked the federal delegation for securing the legislation and noted the efforts of Congressman Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, and state Sen. Chris Girdler, R-Somerset, on the issue. Girdler sponsored a resolution in the 2013 General Assembly opposing the Corps plans. .

“We appreciate the federal delegation, and Sen. Girdler, and so many people’s efforts to make sure we protect that,” Carpenter said.

The planned restrictions were scheduled to take effect this spring above and below the Corps of Engineers dams at four Kentucky lakes — Lake Barkley, Lake Cumberland/Wolf Creek Dam, Martins Fork Lake, and Laurel River Lake — although the greatest impact would have been below the dams at Lake Barkley and Lake Cumberland, Kinman explained

Fishing and boating below the dam at Lake Barkley alone contributes about $3 million to the economy, he said. Lake Barkley is a popular spot for fishing of striped bass, sauger, catfish, paddlefish, and other fish, while the area below Wolf Creek Dam on Lake Cumberland is popular with those fishing brown, rainbow, and brook trout, said Kinman.

The committee also heard reports on efforts by the Kentucky Division of Forestry and State Nature Preserves to deal with a number of invasive species of plants and insects which threaten Kentucky hardwoods and habitat.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at

Text Only
State News
  • Committee seeks explanation of selenium reg discrepancies

    A committee of state lawmakers wants the Energy and Environment Cabinet to explain apparent inconsistencies between its position and that of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency on a new regulation governing how much selenium mining operations may release into Kentucky streams.

    April 22, 2014

  • Healthcare signup in state extended

    While the national health exchange established by the Affordable Care Act — known to some as Obamacare — suffered glitches, crashes and delays, the Kentucky-run exchange, Kynect, was often used as a national model.

    April 4, 2014

  • Kentucky budget passed with little debate

    The Kentucky General Assembly, divided between chambers along party lines, overwhelmingly passed a $20-billion, new two-year budget not only on time but with almost no debate.

    April 1, 2014

  • Lawmakers agree on snow bill

    Kentucky school officials, parents and students finally have what they’ve been asking for: A bill to allow them to get out of school before the summer fully sets in, even if they don’t make up some of the days they missed during the severe winter.

    March 31, 2014

  • Tensions rise during budget negotiations

    Tensions increased Friday between the Republican Senate and Democratic House over continuing negotiations on a new, two-year budget. It even got personal at times.

    March 31, 2014

  • Kentucky Power plan a potential landscape-changer

    Electrical ratepayers, local governments and those employed in the coal industry might have a hard time understanding the complicated transaction through which Kentucky Power Company is purchasing half the generating capacity of a coal-fired West Virginia plant.

    March 28, 2014 2 Stories

  • Senate passes budget with no locked-in gas tax hikes

    The state Senate on Tuesday passed its version of a two-year revenue measure, and unlike the House version, it does not lock in gas tax increases.

    March 26, 2014

  • House passes bill aimed at saving Big Sandy Plant

    Backers of a bill to require the Kentucky Public Service Commission to “reconsider” its previous order approving Kentucky Power’s purchase of a West Virginia generator say all they are asking “is for them to take a second look and look at all the facts.”

    March 26, 2014 1 Story

  • Judge: Companies can’t use eminent domain for pipeline project

    Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd on Tuesday ruled that companies building a natural gas liquids pipeline across parts of Kentucky cannot invoke eminent domain to force private property owners to provide easements.

    March 26, 2014

  • Still no snow day solution from lawmakers

    Senate and House negotiators, working on a bill to give school districts flexibility in making up snow days, each accused the other of moving the goal posts – but it’s the local school districts who may be penalized.

    March 25, 2014