Wilson Post Blogs
Stop the Corps of Engineers NOW!
Last week’s column, regarding things to worry about, rattled some cages. I spoke about closing of the tail waters below 10 dams. See, here is what is happening.
Two years ago, the Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a plan to barricade waters below ten dams along the Cumberland River system where sportsmen have fished for decades.
However, the Corps chose not to alert anglers or nearby county and city officials to this unprecedented action until just three months ago, and then only after U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander requested that the Nashville District Commander hold public meetings.
As is often the case in matters like this, facts got a bit confrugaled. See, that is nicer than saying someone lied or hid the facts. Let me give you an example: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers touted safety as a main reason to use barricades to restrict boating access below its dams; the Corps cited 14 drownings below 10 dams in 42 years.
Truth Uncovered: In 42 years, drownings during non-spill (gates closed) events = ZERO. Drownings during spill events with warning system used = FOUR. Drownings from the bank = FIVE. More have drowned from the bank than from boats when warnings systems were used, yet bank fishing will still be encouraged and boaters barricaded.
Here is another little example: The Corps used 10 near-miss incidents to imply life vests don’t work in waters below the dams; however, they worked for ALL 10 near-misses when they were worn properly, revealing an impressive safety record. Are you getting the idea?
Reckon just how the Corps is figuring on paying for the cost of this little unneeded project? Well, lemme just take and tell you. Truth Uncovered: During a time of national budget crisis, the Corps reports the barricades will cost at least $2.6 million. The money will come from delaying hiring of personnel and reducing recreation area (campground) service levels and maintenance.
Now that is not all when it comes to money. Truth Uncovered: The cost to our river communities will be enormous. In 2000, the KDFWR estimated the economic value of the Barkley Dam tailwater to be over $3 million dollars. Multiply that by 10 dams. Now add in the hit to our tourist destinations such as the campgrounds that will face cutbacks to pay for the barricades. The result is financially devastating.
Now here is a real goodie for you. Pay special attention to this: The Corps states it must barricade in order to meet its own regulations. Truth Uncovered: All District Commanders since the dams were built, clearly believed barricades to be unnecessary in meeting Corps regulations. The Corps’ own Lake Barkley operational management plan states: “A physical barrier to boats is not practical either upstream or downstream of the power plant, spillway and lock... Turbulent waters and floating debris prohibit the installation of a continuous barrier in the tailwaters. The danger buoys and signs provide sufficient warning of the hazards and there is NO NEED FOR A BARRIER TO KEEP VESSELS FROM ENTERING THE RESTRICTED AREAS” [emphasis added].
How about the ole boy so dead set on this deal? Reckon he is honest as they come and plumb open with the public? Let’s see about that. Truth Uncovered: District Commander James DeLapp has not followed the Corps’ own policy to include federal, state and local agencies in this drastic change to its operations. We have learned the Corps considered three alternatives to full barricades, but it refuses to share those options with the public despite a Freedom of Information Act request.
However, the Corps does have some straight arrow guys. Some of them wrote an operational plan. In fact, it is the current plan. Take a look. Truth Uncovered: Nothing says it better than the Corps’ own current operational management plan -- the plan that District Commander DeLapp wants to change: "Since the project was constructed in 1967, the visiting public has used the area around the dam primarily for fishing. Current restrictions, procedures and operational considerations such as requiring PFD’s and limiting access during discharges, have permitted safe public access to the facilities." Current Operational Management Plan – Lake Barkley, Section 32-4.
Here it is in shorthand: Tailwater drownings = Four. Drownings on lakes and beaches = 881. Cost of 10 barricades = $2.7 million. Cost to our economy = millions. Freedom to fish = priceless.
Now I have to be honest. Most of the work on this column was done by my good friend, Wade Bourne, fellow outdoor writer in Clarksville and another friend, Doug Markham with the TWRA.
A few years ago, Wade and others got into a wrangle with the Corps over another senseless deal and they won. So Wade went to work. I want you to go to just a little work and contact your Congress folks, you know who they are and where to reach them. If you need a little more information, here is where you get it.