U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced a bipartisan, bicameral compromise to support our nation’s water infrastructure. This legislation, called America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, includes a number of Kentucky priorities insisted upon by Senator McConnell. The measure is expected to be considered in the House of Representatives later this week. Afterward, the Senate is expected to pass it and send the bill to President Donald Trump for his signature.
“Kentucky’s water infrastructure holds vast potential for the future of our Commonwealth,” said Senator McConnell. “Home to more than 1,900 miles of navigable inland waterways that support more than 13,000 jobs, I am proud to represent the heart of our nation’s inland waterways system. During the consideration of this important legislation, I had the ability as the Senate Majority Leader to be Kentucky’s voice at the center of the national discussion. I look forward to Congress passing this legislation soon to support Kentucky families and communities.”
The legislation contains the following priorities benefiting Kentucky communities that Senator McConnell ensured were included in the final agreement:
More than five decades ago, the Army Corps surveyed land near the Rough River Lake for flood control purposes. However, it was recently discovered that the Army Corps made errors during its initial survey. In an attempt to rectify that mistake, the Army Corps announced it would charge Rough River property owners costly administrative fees to resurvey the land. The total cost of these fees could reach $4,000 per household. When families learned of this unfair demand from the federal government, they contacted Senator McConnell for his assistance. Working with Army Corps’ leadership, Senator McConnell and Senator Paul secured a measure prohibiting the Army Corps from imposing or collecting fees from impacted Kentuckians. The legislation also requires the federal government to reimburse all property owners who have already paid fees.
“Families in the Rough River community can finally breathe a sigh of relief,” said Senator McConnell.“Together we pushed back against the unreasonable bureaucracy, which unfairly saddle property owners with costly administrative fees. As Majority Leader, I helped ensure this important provision was included in the final bill.”
“I want to thank Senator Mitch McConnell for his willingness to help the Rough River community,” said Breckinridge County Judge/Executive Maurice Lucas. “We have fortunately avoided a costly and burdensome process for all of our local landowners because of this legislation which Senator McConnell was able to secure as Senate Majority Leader.”
FREEDOM TO FISH
Senator McConnell’s provision extends his 2013 legislation to block the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers from prohibiting boating access to popular fishing waters at Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams. When the Obama administration announced its intention to restrict access to these Kentucky waters, numerous community members contacted Senator McConnell for help. He agreed that Kentucky’s fishermen didn’t need the federal government restricting access to these waters, and he worked with his colleagues from Kentucky and Tennessee to block the Army Corps’ overreach. In the 2018 legislation, Senator McConnell secured a five-year extension to his original provision, again blocking the Army Corps from prohibiting access to the tailwaters of Barkley and Wolf Creek Dams.
“For many Kentuckians, fishing the Cumberland River and its tributaries is a treasured tradition we must protect for future generations,” said Senator McConnell. “Working with local communities, I was able to secure a provision to continue preventing the Army Corps from blocking access to these popular fishing waters. I once again proudly led the charge to preserve this Kentucky pastime and vital source of tourism.”
“I’m thankful Senator Mitch McConnell has again pushed the Freedom to Fish Act through Congress in order to protect our rights to fish below all Cumberland River dams,” said Lyon County Judge/Executive Wade White. “This continues to be an important revenue source for many businesses along our river in Kentucky and Tennessee and I’m thankful to know Senator McConnell’s position as Majority Leader has paid dividends to those who love to fish.”
LAKE CUMBERLAND FEES
Communities near Lake Cumberland contacted Senator McConnell when the Army Corps asserted it would potentially charge fees to water users at Lake Cumberland. Senator McConnell and Senator Paul included language prohibiting the Army Corps from charging water users fees, which would have ultimately been passed down to consumers in the region. In the House of Representatives, Congressman Hal Rogers has been a leading voice and influential partner on this issue for a number of years.
“As Senate Majority Leader, I was proud to include a provision blocking the Army Corps from imposing costly fees on the communities around Lake Cumberland,” said Senator McConnell. “I was happy to work with Senator Paul and Congressman Rogers to deliver a positive result on their behalf.”
“As the Counties and Cities within the Lake Cumberland Area continue to overcome budgeting issues from many directions, it is with great appreciation that we say thanks to Senator McConnell for relieving this potential added burden,” said Lake Cumberland Area Development District Executive Director Darryl McGaha. “With this action it will allow services to residents in our counties and cities from being adversely affected.”
GREEN AND BARREN RIVER LOCKS AND DAMS
Kentucky communities along the Green and Barren Rivers have asked the Army Corps to demolish certain locks and dams, in an effort to make the land more attractive for purchase. However, the Army Corps claimed they lacked the legal authority to supervise the demolition before the land was conveyed. Working with the Army Corps and local stakeholders – including the KY Nature Conservancy – Senator McConnell secured language in the comprehensive waterways bill giving the Army Corps the express authority to demolish these specific locks and dams.
In previous water infrastructure legislation, Senator McConnell secured legislative language to transfer ownership of locks and dams from Army Corps to local stakeholders in the Mammoth Cave community, which sought to enhance the area’s river-based recreation and tourism.
“As Kentucky’s senior Senator, my greatest privilege is to help provide solutions to problems impacting communities in Kentucky,” said Senator McConnell. “That’s why, when the Kentucky Nature Conservancy and a number of local communities asked for help on the Green and Barren Rivers, I was happy to use my leadership position to help solve the problem. I secured legislation to give the Army Corps the authority to demolish unnecessary locks and dams to spur new economic development opportunities and tourism in the area.”
“Senator McConnell has long been a champion of TNC’s and our partners’ work to secure a healthier, safer, and more accessible Green River,” said David Phemister, Kentucky State Director for The Nature Conservancy (TNC). “The Senator’s important support continues in this latest bill, and we are grateful. We also appreciate his critical role as Majority Leader in moving the entire bill towards passage.”
KENTUCKY RIVER LOCKS AND DAMS 1-4
Numerous Kentucky families and a significant part of our economy rely upon our inland waterways. However, many of the locks and dams owned by the Army Corps have fallen into disrepair. Senator McConnell included a provision in the 2018 water resources development legislation to transfer ownership of Kentucky River Locks and Dams 1-4 (KY 1-4) from the Army Corps to the Kentucky River Authority (KRA). Allowing local stakeholders to operate and maintain these structures and make necessary improvements can open new opportunities for the many Kentuckians who benefit from this important water source.
“Whenever possible, Kentuckians want to get Washington bureaucrats out of their lives,” said Senator McConnell. “That’s why I worked with Congressman Andy Barr to secure a provision transferring ownership of KY 1-4 from the Army Corps to the KRA. In Kentucky’s hands, these critical locks and dams will receive the attention necessary to protect an important water source for Central Kentucky.”
“The Finance Cabinet is pleased to have Senator McConnell’s support in turning over ownership of Kentucky River Locks and Dams 1–4 to the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said William M. Landrum III, Secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet. “Acquiring these locks will be great for energizing economic growth across Kentucky communities. The Kentucky River Authority is clearly poised to effectively manage, maintain and promote these valuable assets for many years to come.”