North Alabama – specifically our beloved Tennessee River – is known as one of the richest bodies of water for sports fishing in the country. That's not just my opinion. Drive by Ingalls Harbor boat launch and the Pavilion during a tournament weekend and count the number of boat trailers. Better yet, count the number of different state license plates on those trailers. This area's reputation for sport fishing is represented in the diversity of the states that come here, both for recreation and competition.
The Board of Directors of this Chamber are deeply concerned about the potential economic impact of House Bill (HB) 258, which allows for commercial gill fishing on the Tennessee River. Specifically, this bill targets JUST the Tennessee River and not any other body of water in our State.
According to the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the economic impact of sport fishing is tremendous. Using their formula developed by Dr. Keivan Deravi, developer of the Alabama Economic Forecasting Model, the impact total for the past five years (2010-2014) is more than $2 million. During that period of time, Decatur's Ingalls Harbor alone has hosted more than 30 different tournaments.
The reintroduction of commercial gill net fishing is harmful to the game fish population, the health of our fishery, and detrimental to our effort to recruit major tournaments. With fewer tournaments, there are fewer nights booked in local hotels, fewer tanks of gas bought for boats and RVs, fewer meals bought in local restaurants, and fewer purchases at local retailers like Academy Sports, Wiley's and other stores owned and operated by people right here in Decatur and Morgan County.
All of that together translates to reduced local tax revenue for schools, infrastructure, fire and police protection and public sanitation, just to name a few services. Those reduced revenues will impact quality of life for years and years to come.
We encourage the public to contact your local legislative delegation and encourage them to vote "no" on HB 258 and protect this natural resource that provides much needed tourism dollars to our area and the State of Alabama. To find your local representative, click here.
Wade Weaver is the vice chairman of public policy and former board chairman for the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber.