Recreation forum to discuss locks

Published 10:49pm Wednesday, February 6, 2013

When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in October that the locks along the Alabama River would be closed to recreational traffic, after being evaluated and classified as low use — stakeholders along the river fought back.

They fought back in the form of petitions, calls to the Corps and even involved our state representatives in Washington D.C.

The Corps took notice as the stakeholders proved that the river was and is important for both commercial and recreational purposes. The Corps then made a compromise and revised their plans and released new hours of lock operations.

And while the new lock schedule isn’t perfect — the locks will be staffed Monday through Thursday from October through February, and Friday through Monday during the spring and summer months — stakeholders recognized that their access through the locks would not be fully taken away from them.

The freedom to lock through is technically still available, but still very limited as the only time a recreational user can lock through is if the Corps is doing maintenance on the locks, which is why they are encouraging people to call ahead and find out when those maintenance lockages are occurring, so they don’t show up and have to wait.

In an effort to keep the dialogue and momentum for access though the Alabama River’s locks Coosa-Alabama River Improvement Association president, Jerry Sailors is hosting a free, open forum on recreational river use Feb. 21 at 1:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites in Montgomery.

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

“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,” Sailors said at the Alabama Scenic River Trail’s quarterly meeting. “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.”

Meaning that if the locks go unused or simply aren’t used enough, they may be closed for recreational use altogether — something we already fought so hard for this year.

With this in mind, we encourage everyone to not only to use the locks on the Alabama River as often as possible, but also to attend the CARIA recreational forum in Montgomery, Feb. 21.We feel it will be a great opportunity for the public to voice all of their concerns, have their questions answered and get an overall better understanding of the state of the river.

For more information on the forum visit caria.org

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