A picture of Representative Grace F. Napolitano
Grace N.
Democrat CA 32

About Rep. Grace
  • Freedom to Fish Act

    by Representative Grace F. Napolitano

    Posted on 2013-05-21

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    NAPOLITANO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    The pending measure was introduced in the Senate on May 16 of this year, 2013, and passed the very same day. While the bill is apparently a Senate-revised version of the legislation introduced in February of 2013, no committee hearings or markups were held on either bill.

    Since 1996, the Army Corps of Engineers has been required to establish restricted areas for hazardous waters upstream and downstream of all Corps dams. As written, S. 982 would revise the current agency policy and would also prohibit the Army Corps of Engineers from establishing any restricted areas in hazardous waters at dams and other structures in the Cumberland River basin for a period of 2 years, and also require them to remove any physical barriers that already exist to prevent access to the hazardous areas. If after the 2-year moratorium, the Corps decided to implement new restricted areas around these dams and other structures, it would continue to be prohibited from erecting any physical barriers to prevent people from entering hazardous areas.

    Mr. Speaker, I have serious concerns over this legislation because it does pose risks for public safety and national security. Currently, the Corps restricts access to certain areas above and below the dams of the Cumberland River basin in order to keep people from being sucked into the spill waste or from having their boats swamped or sunk by unplanned releases from the hydropower units, which are very much un-timed. The reason they do this is very simple: to prevent people from drowning and to restrict access to Federal dams that would be targets for terrorism or destruction. Without full-time law enforcement patrols, areas above and below dams are not constantly monitored, and the Corps has not been able to alert and rescue people who get into trouble. They have to base it on people who are in boats nearby to help effect a rescue. Fourteen people drowned in the last few years, and there have been 20 near misses where there is no Corps staff to help.

    In fact, according to a report by WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, there have been three fatalities in the hazardous waters immediately downstream of those dams on the Cumberland River. The waters are so hazardous at these locations that wearing a life jacket is ineffective. And I repeat: ineffective.

    To legislatively preclude a Federal agency from protecting public health and national security seems a very unwise course of action, and I have significant concerns about the precedent that would be set by this legislation.

    [[Page H2826]] Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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