The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced plans to tighten restrictions around locks and dams on the Cumberland River and its adjoining tributaries, including Center Hill Dam.
Nashville District Commander Lieutenant Colonel Jim DeLapp said the Corps, because of safety issues, will install physical barriers, most likely buoys tied to cables above the water, within 500-700 feet of dam tail waters to prevent boat access to that area. Barriers will also be placed above the dams. The restrictions will be effective on a project by project basis as they are phased in. Fishing from the bank will still be allowed but all forms of water access will be prohibited in the restricted area, including boating, swimming and wading. The restrictions are being put in place to bring the Nashville District into compliance with other U.S. Corps of Engineers properties nationwide.
"We understand the tightened restricted areas in the Nashville District may be unpopular, but it is necessary for the district to enforce a more restrictive policy that complies more effectively with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' ER 1130-2-520, Chapter 10," said Freddie Bell, chief of the Natural Resource Management Branch. "The increased restriction will also provide the highest level of public safety and address physical security issues."
Since 2009, three fatalities, one serious injury and 10 near misses/rescues have occurred in the hazardous waters immediately downstream of dams on the Cumberland River and its adjoining tributaries. Life jacket wear has been ineffective in these areas, since all of the victims who drowned were wearing a life jacket.
The immediate hazardous water areas above and below dams in the Nashville District are best described as industrial areas that pose a high level of risk for the public because of the hydroelectric, spilling, sluicing and lock operations that are often present or begin with little or no notice. Such water releases can change a dry riverbed or calm waters into a life-threatening situation within seconds that can swamp, capsize and trap boats and people in turbulent waters.
"We want the public to understand safety is the Agency's highest priority," said Bell. "The tailwater directly below a dam is a high risk area and fishing in this area is a high risk activity. As we comply with Corps regulations by restricting these areas, we are also keeping the public safe."
DeLapp said the barriers will cost around $2 million for all 10 projects and that they will be phased in beginning in February and running through April.
The Corps will hold public meetings in Nashville, Cookeville, and Paducah and Somerset, Kentucky in January 2013 to both inform and solicit input from the public.
For more information, on the "Restricted Areas Around Dams" please go to http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/pao/news/boating_restrictions_near_dams.htm.