The Recreational Fishing Alliance is lashing out about the Freedom to Fish bill championed by U.S. Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., saying Congress hijacked the bill the group fought to support during the last 10 years.
The Senate passed the Freedom to Fish Act (S. 421) earlier this month.
Paul’s website described it as “a bill that protects fishing access at the tailwaters of dams along the Cumberland River [and] prevents the Army Corps of Engineers from moving forward with a plan to install physical barriers in several locations, including the Barkley and Wolf Creek dams.”
"Passage of the Freedom to Fish Act today is a welcome alternative to the Army Corps' burdensome plan, which would hurt Kentucky residents and businesses," Paul said on his website. "There is a deep and long love for fishing the tailwaters of the Cumberland River, and I am glad we have taken action to help protect fishing access and Kentucky's economy."
But the RFA calls the bill “a farce,” saying the legislation, which reached President Obama’s desk last week, does little more than provide a two-year moratorium on the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to erect barriers specifically along the Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee.
"A total of 11 sponsors of a House and Senate bill, with all members from either Tennessee or Kentucky, yet this legislation just sails through with a smile and a wave," RFA executive director Jim Donofrio said in an email. "Bring 5,000 coastal fishermen to Washington, D.C., in organized protest of our federal fisheries law and garner support of upwards of 50 federal legislators and Congress does nothing, it's maddening."
Donofrio said the new legislation might offer some freedom to fish for dam anglers on the Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee, but he added that "had any of the original Freedom to Fish sponsors in D.C. actually read this bill they would've realized that their coastal anglers were essentially being pawned off by unanimous consent."
RFA said the original bill would have provided far broader federal protection for anglers against arbitrary closed area regulations on every coast.
— Compiled by Reagan Haynes