The protest against proposed boating barriers being placed at the tailwaters of 10 Cumberland River dams received a powerful boost Saturday.

In what was deemed the Freedom to Fish Rally, Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield joined Kentucky U.S. senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, as well as Tennessee U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander to voice opposition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ idea at Barkley Dam - one of the places that would be affected. The event was named after a bill Whitfield is sponsoring in the U.S. House of Representatives that has come to be known as the Freedom to Fish Act and would prevent the Corps measure from happening.

“It’s so frustrating,” Whitfield said of the Corps’ proposal that it says is in the name of safety for boaters. “They’ve had an operational management plan in place since 1996, and the whole reason they’re doing this is because, all of a sudden, in 2012, they’ve decided they’re not in compliance with their own regulations.

“That’s the only reason given.”

The loudest voices heard Saturday were those of Livingston County Judge-Executive Chris Lasher and Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White, who both said communication with the Corps of Engineers’ Nashville District has been, at times, non-existent.

White even displayed what he said were several pages of documents he had requested via the Freedom of Information act that had the actual information covered in red blocks.

“They’re barricading me from the information that I’m needing to see,” said White, who first raised the issue last fall after learning of the Corps’ plan and immediately thought of what it would do to the tourism industry that depends on fishing for much of its dollars annually.

“The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources did a study for us recently and determined that the tailwaters of Lake Barkley are worth $3 million to us. This is going to hurt fishing guides, mom-and-pop shops, businesses, gas stations, and the Corps just continues to ignore this issue.”

Enter the show of force from Washington Saturday, featuring McConnell, the top Republican of the U.S. Senate, Paul, still receiving attention after his 13-hour filibuster speech a few weeks ago, and Alexander, a veteran of Capitol Hill, who also is a former two-term governor of Tennessee. All of them told an estimated crowd of 200 that they will do all they can to prevent the Corps’ plan from going forward.

“They’re not only spending money we don’t have (estimated at $2.6 million to install the barriers), but they’re telling us what to do in ridiculous, absurd ways,” McConnell said after opening his remarks with a story about how he learned to fish below a dam as a youngster. “I would go with my dad and one of his friends and they didn’t think anything of it. They knew what they were doing.

“Folks, this is the Nanny State on full display. It’s as if they’re saying that they’re smarter than us.”

“They’re saying that we’re too dumb to take care of ourselves,” Paul quipped. “A big problem, though, is we have so many unelected bureaucrats making up so much of the policy. Do you know that unelected officials have adopted 100 new regulations in this country, each costing the American taxpayers over $1 million? You don’t get to elect those people.”

In addition, Lasher revealed that he, White and 1st District state Sen. Stan Humphries of Cadiz will take a letter to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear soon that will ask for Attorney Gen. Jack Conway to file an injunction against the Corps under a public trust doctrine. Beshear has expressed his opposition to the Corps plan.

“This is not just about fishing, but limiting personal freedoms as well and an event like today is going to boost the arm of support to fight against these types of rules,” Humphries said.