U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) spoke with local leaders Thursday about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan for the locks level of service on the Alabama River and addressed other local concerns. -- Sarah Cook

Sen. Sessions says he sees potential in Alabama River

Published 12:34am Friday, September 28, 2012

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) attended the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Thursday.

Sessions addressed the chamber, providing an update on federal issues impacting area small businesses, job creation and the community. Those updates included discussion of the budget and the need to enact a long-term plan to change the nation’s debt course.

The buzzword of the luncheon was “unsustainable.”

“We need to focus on paying down the debt,” Sessions said. “In the next 10 years the smallest deficit that we will have under the numbers of President Obama’s budget that he submitted to us shows a $540 billion deficit, and it’s going up.”

Sessions added, “We can’t tax our way out of this. It’s going to take cities and counties everywhere to figure out how to live within our means the best we can. We need to as a nation, to rally the American people that business as usual can’t continue.”

The subject of discontinuing the usual is something that struck a chord with the chamber. The majority of the luncheon was spent discussing the discontinuing of recreational traffic through the lock and dam system on the Alabama River, a plan that will soon be implemented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“The problems we’re having with recreational traffic being disallowed through the lock and dams, is already a problem from an industry standpoint, just on lack of navigability” Kim Ballard said. “You know how much recreational dollars are spent in Wilcox County especially, and Dallas County.”

Sessions responded to the issue that seemed to be on everyone’s mind.

“I’ll tell you what, I don’t see how they can build these dams and not figure out reasonable access to go up and down the river,” he said. “That was part of the contract, the understanding when they built the dam, that they’d maintain navigability, so I’m worried about it.”

Sessions added, “I think there’s a lot of potential on the Alabama [River].”

Potential that Wayne Vardaman, executive director of the Selma-Dallas County Economic Development Authority said is currently lost because of the lack of dredging.

“They won’t dredge it. Dredging has caused this whole problem,” Vardaman said. “We have personally lost here, two to three possible projects this year that would’ve used the river.”

Vardaman explained to the chamber, “[Dredging] is one of those things if we don’t dredge it, we can’t get the traffic. If we can’t get the traffic, we get reclassified like we did. You get reclassified, they don’t open the locks.”

Vardaman told Sessions that he appreciated the letter that was sent to the Corps, but “We still need your help,” he said.

Sessions responded, assuring the chamber that he will continue to push the issue.

“The Corps has a certain amount of money, and the Corps is supposed to use that money on priority matters,” Sessions said. “We’ll see if we can’t convince them that this is a priority. It’s expensive, but in terms of the size of the Corps’ budget, it’s not that big.”

Sessions noted that his letter has received a good deal of support and he said having the whole delegation sign on to the letter, helped give it strength.

“We haven’t heard back from the Corps, but I feel very strongly that they need to set up a mechanism by which the public can raise their concerns.”

  • Dewayne Allday

    At a point in the near future, I wish that the majority of both democrats and republicans would openly recognize that middle ground must be found quickly before the bubble pops. There is little difference between the far right and the far left. One would wipe out welfare so that people would be hungry and the far left would have everyone on welfare and bankrupt the nation. In both scenarios the “checks” will quit coming and people will be hungry. In the second scenario, everyone suffers.
    It would be very wise for everyone to study up on what is going on in Greece and other countries who are having financial woes due to socialism. Jobs are gone and governments on the edge of bankrupcty taking handouts from the International Monetary Fund and other international agencies who are, at the same time, placing “rules” for those countries to abide by. People are rioting all around the world. No coincidence as to why.
    Last I heard, this was the U.S.A., the most powerful superpower in the world. I care about the people here and I understand we’ve had it very good compared to other countries. I wish the majority of our politicians truly cared about the well being of the citizens instead of themselves.
    The “retirement” checks quit coming to ALL retirees in the city of Prichard, Alabama. A retirired fire marshal there died in his own home. Too young for social security, he based his entire budget around his Prichard retirement check. When his retirement check quit coming, he had no family and was too proud to ask for help. They found him dead in his own house. His power and his water had been cut off because he couldn’t afford to pay his bills any more. This was a man that worked for the city he loved for 30 + years.
    This retired fire marshall has a name. His name was Rex Wall. You should read the following article and try to get to know Rex because you’ll know a lot more people like him if our national leaders don’t get their act together.
    http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/the_next_chapter_municipalities_are_using_chapter_9_to_fend_off_creditors/
    The truth is, it doesn’t matter if our president is white, black, or purple and from the planet Pluto but what does matter is that programs are put in place that allow businesses to expand and that an atmosphere is created that is conductive to created jobs getting people of unemployment an other government programs. Our leaders have over 300 million citizens under their care. They all need to take that very seriously.
    Cities filing bankruptcy is something “new”, since 2008. We as a nation are entering a new “era”. The thought that the “checks will always come” is changing. Take a look at the following:
    Jefferson County
    Status: Filed for bankruptcy
    Date: 11/9/2011
    Debt or Deficit Amount: More than $4 billion

    Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

    Status: Bankruptcy filing
    rejected, defaulted on payments

    Date: 3/10/2012

    Debt or Deficit Amount: More than $300 million

    Central Falls, Rhode Island

    Status: Filed for bankruptcy

    Date: 8/1/2011

    Debt or Deficit Amount: $21 million of outstanding debt, plus unfunded
    pension liabilities

    San Bernardino,
    California

    Status: Filed for bankruptcy

    Date: 8/1/2012

    Debt or Deficit Amount: $46 million

    Mammoth Lakes,
    California

    Status: Filed for bankruptcy

    Date: 7/3/2012

    Debt or Deficit Amount: $43 million

    Stockton, California

    Status: Filed for bankruptcy

    Date: 6/28/2012

    Debt or Deficit Amount: $26 million

    Boise County, Idaho

    Status: Bankruptcy filing rejected

    Date: 9/8/2011

    Debt or Deficit Amount: $5.4 millionYou can keep up with this at http://www.governing.com/gov-data/municipal-cities-counties-bankruptcies-and-defaults.htmlThere are at least 12 move municipalities attempting or obtaining bankrupcty protection across the nation.

    Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

    Status: Bankruptcy filing
    rejected, defaulted on payments

    Date: 3/10/2012

    Debt or Deficit Amount: More than $300 million

    Central Falls, Rhode Island

    Status: Filed for bankruptcy

    Date: 8/1/2011

    Debt or Deficit Amount: $21 million of outstanding debt, plus unfunded
    pension liabilities

    San Bernardino,
    California

    Status: Filed for bankruptcy

    Date: 8/1/2012

    Debt or Deficit Amount: $46 million

    Mammoth Lakes,
    California

    Status: Filed for bankruptcy

    Date: 7/3/2012

    Debt or Deficit Amount: $43 million

    Stockton, California

    Status: Filed for bankruptcy

    Date: 6/28/2012

    Debt or Deficit Amount: $26 million

    Boise County, Idaho

    Status: Bankruptcy filing rejected

    Date: 9/8/2011

    Debt or Deficit Amount: $5.4 millionYou can keep up with this at http://www.governing.com/gov-data/municipal-cities-counties-bankruptcies-and-defaults.html. There are at least 12 more municipalities attempting or obtaining bankrupcty protection across the nation.

  • Dewayne Allday

    Sustainability? That’s a big word, larger than 4 letters.

  • Bamaboy

    Senator Sessions was in Selma today, just a few days after he was first interviewed by a reporter at the Selma Times Journal. The subject was the Army Corps of Engineers plan to lock down Alabama river to recreational travel and even restrict commercial traffic. Soon after talking to the STJ, Senator Sessions sent a firm letter to the Corps that resulted in a hastily called stakeholder meeting in Monroeville. Events have continued to develop since that meeting and now a number of elected officals are weighing in on the issue, including our own Mayor Evans. Throughout this process the STJ has continued to report on breaking news, oftentimes being the only media outlet to do so. I heard today that their coverage has been picked up by Governor Bentley’s office and he will personally being weighing in on the issue. All this is good news for the citizens of Selma. Alabama river belongs to the people and access should not be limited or denied without properly discussing the impact of such a decision with all the stakeholders. I am looking forward to seeing what happens next!

    • Bamaboy

      Its offical: Gov. Robert Bentley has sent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a letter urging the agency to reconsider reducing lock usage on two rivers in Alabama. Of course one if those rivers us Alabama river which passes through Selma. The story in Selma has become a statewide story now. Thank you STJ

  • http://www.selmatimesjournal.com/ Tim Reeves

    Test 2

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