WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of the Water Resources Development Act, which included a plan similar to his to replace Chickamauga Lock, as well as Alexander’s permanent ban stopping the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from placing physical barriers below dams on the Cumberland River.
“This is a good day for Tennesseans who depend upon and enjoy the waterways our great state has to offer,” Alexander said. “House passage of the Water Resources Development Act moves us further down the path toward replacing Chickamauga Lock, and permanently preserving the rights of Tennesseans and visitors to fish below publicly owned dams on the Cumberland River.”
The U.S. Senate passed its version of the Water Resources Development Act – which included Alexander’s plan to replace Chickamauga Lock and his permanent ban on the Corps’ plans to restrict fishing by placing physical barriers below 10 dams on the Cumberland – in May. Following negotiations between the House and Senate on its versions of the Water Resources Development Act, the legislation will be set to become law.
On Chickamauga Lock:
The House’s version of the Water Resources Development Act, passed Thursday, includes a plan to replace Chickamauga Lock that is similar to the Alexander plan passed by the U.S. Senate in May. Alexander’s legislation would prioritize funding for Chickamauga Lock, which is composed of aging and severely deteriorating concrete, in two ways. One provision would completely remove the requirement that Inland Waterways Trust Fund money go toward Olmsted Lock, an Ohio River project that Alexander said has “soaked up almost all the available money” for such projects. A second provision would restate a capital development plan that outlines priorities for the fund.
The House version would partially remove Olmsted Lock from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. Currently, Olmsted receives half of its money from the fund, and half from federal taxpayers – the House bill would change that to only 25 percent of funding coming from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.
Alexander said: “I look forward to working with the House on an agreement to replace Chickamauga Lock and ensure that 6.7 million tons of cargo can move through the lock and benefit commerce in Chattanooga and all of East Tennessee.”
On U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fishing restrictions:
The House’s version of the Water Resources Development Act also includes Alexander’s legislation to permanently prohibit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from using physical barriers to restrict access to fishing areas below 10 dams on the Cumberland River in Tennessee and Kentucky. It would also delegate enforcement below the dams to state wildlife agencies, and require the Corps to re-evaluate its plans.
Alexander said: “We don’t need Big Brother holding the hands of fishermen in Tennessee and Kentucky. This legislation will permanently stop the Corps from pursuing some of its most unreasonable restrictions that would waste taxpayer dollars and keep fishermen from enjoying fishing areas that draw visitors from all over the country.”
The U.S. Congress has previously passed, and the president signed into law, Alexander’s two-year ban on the Corps’ fishing restrictions, which Alexander said was necessary because the House had not yet taken up its version of the Water Resources Development Act. The Senate and House still must negotiate in conference over differences between its versions of the Water Resources Development Act in order for the legislation – including the plan to replace Chickamauga Lock and Alexander’s plan to limit the Corps’ fishing restrictions – to become law.