River Association urges residents to continue fight for river access

Published 10:37pm Monday, February 4, 2013

Recreational use of the Alabama River, particularly through the river’s three locks, has been a topic of great discussion for stakeholders along the river for the past several months.

The river locks, and their new schedule of operations was a topic Coosa-Alabama River Improvement Association president, Jerry Sailors mentioned at the Alabama Scenic River Trail’s quarterly meeting, held Monday at the Selma-Dallas County Public Library.

“We are an advocate for primarily commercial transportation, but we’re also vitally interested in the boating aspect because of the lock issues in particular that we’ve encountered over the past few months,” Sailors said of CARIA at the meeting. “One of the things that I’m trying to promote right now is a recreational forum on the afternoon Feb. 21.”

Sailors said the forum would be open to anyone who wants to come and talk about issues regarding the river, including access, permitting, safety and the locks’ availability.

The free, open forum will be held Feb. 21 at the Embassy Suites in Montgomery at 1:30 p.m.

ASRT president Fred Couch encouraged people to attend the meeting in Montgomery and urged everyone to use the locks as many times they could.

“We need to get some people going [through the locks on the Alabama River],” Couch said to ASRT members. “Use the locks one at a time or 10 at a time. We need to use those locks — if they don’t get much use, they’ll lock them shut, and they won’t be in use. And that comes out of the Washington office, not our local office.”

“All I’m trying to do is get a dialogue going so that we can get a public awareness on some of the issues that may impact boating on that river,” Sailors said of CARIA’s recreation forum. “If we don’t get enough lockages on those locks, the [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] will be evaluating what they’re going to do and how they’re going to operate those locks further. I want to make sure that that communication line is open for folks to comment on that.

“What I’m concerned with frankly is that we need to make sure that those locks are being used. The Corps will reevaluate that usage level at some point, and if they aren’t being used sufficiently then they will say, why are we continuing to spend whatever money they are at this point keeping them open, if nobody’s going to use them.”

The recreation forum will begin with short, background presentations from the Corps and other groups before opening discussion with the objective of identifying issues affecting the river recreation.

Sailors said he hops the forum prompts the development of strategies to address those issues.

For more information visit www.caria.org.

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