NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Legislation sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) expressing the Tennessee General Assembly’s desire to allow boater access to waters above and below 10 Tennessee dams is headed to the Senate floor on Monday night. Senate Joint Resolution 132 , which was approved by the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Environment Committee on Wednesday, urges the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to work with local communities and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency regarding alternative safety methods rather than banning the use of the waters to the public. The Dams include Barkley, Center Hill, Cheatham, Cordell Hull, Dale Hollow, J. Percy Priest, Laurel River, Martins Fork, Old Hickory, and Wolf Creek.
Beavers said the resolution compliments measures being taken by Governor Lamar Alexander and other state leaders to stop the Corps’ restrictions.
The Corp announced plans in December to restrict boat, swimming and wading access at various distances at the dams for reasons of public safety and to adhere to a policy adopted nationally in 1996. The project is expected to cost approximately $2 million.
Beavers’ resolution calls on the Corp of Engineers “to hold the current plan in abeyance until alternative plans are investigated that promote both boater safety and recognition of the outstanding fishing and tourism opportunity in these areas.”
“Fishermen have used these waters since these dams have been in existence,” said Senator Beavers. “This resolution just lets the Corps and our congressional delegation know that it is that the State of Tennessee, through their elected representatives, is asking them to reconsider these restrictions. The action to close the waters, which have some of the highest fish catch rates, would negatively impact fishing, recreation and tourism in my Senatorial district. It will have an economic impact on many citizens in the Middle Tennessee region.”
The resolution also claims the waters, “and the fish therein are publicly-owned resources held in trust by the State of Tennessee for the citizens.” It says the 1996 restrictions being implemented by the Corp are based on bank full conditions with major spillway gates open. This is done “without recognition for either the current economic conditions or more normal water flow levels,” the resolution continues. In addition, the resolution claims that historic safety data does not support the current proposal being implemented by the Nashville District for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restrict boat access.
“We have not seen data showing that the accident rate is higher in these waters than other waters,” added Beavers. “There has got to be a better way for the Corps to address safety concerns, whether it is targeting measures to the time during which the spillway gate is open or tougher enforcement of current boater safety laws.”
If passed, the resolution will be delivered to members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation and Corps of Engineers.