Group wants Coosa dredged

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 14, 2003

They meet to discuss the economics and recreation of a river.

The Coosa-Alabama River Improvement Association is holding its annual meeting at the St. James Hotel.

Jerry Sailors, executive vice-president, said that every year members of the group meet in a different city. Next year could be Monroeville, then Gadsten, then Rome, Ga. After around five years the meeting would revolve back the Selma.

The purpose of the meeting is to address issues that are crucial to the well-being of the river. For example, Sailors said that the Corps of Engineers would be speaking today about President George W. Bush’s proposal concerning river support.

The Corps of Engineers is a United States Army organization, Sailors said. They’ve been charged with the management and development of U.S. inland waterways.

That includes channels, locks and dams, flood control and recreation.

Bush’s fiscal year 2004 budget, Sailors said, doesn’t have any provisions for dredging the Alabama River &045;&045; a necessity if the river is to stay a waterway.

To keep the waterway at nine feet, a depth required for the river to be a waterway, Sailors said that it must be dredged by the corps.

CARIA plans to combat the lack of funding by visiting Washington, D.C., in March and speaking with the Alabama delegation, both senators and all of the state’s representatives.

Members of CARIA will also hear about a reservoir north of Atlanta that feeds into the Chattahoochie River.

Sailors said that this is an important issue because water taken out of that system for Atlanta directly affects how much water Alabama gets.

The meeting, though, doesn’t just focus on economics and logistics. Safety and Recreation also plays a large role for the group.

Sailors said that CARIA members will hear from Capt. Steve Hardy of the U.S. Coast Guard. He’ll be discussing waterway and port security.

They’ll also hear from Jay Martin of Florence, a recreational boater who will talk about what he looks for in recreational facilities.

District 7 Congressman Artur Davis will also make an appearance at the annual gathering.

Sailors said that Davis will speak at the closing luncheon today and will most likely discuss the economic development of the area.

CARIA was formed in 1890. Its purpose was to facilitate commercial barge traffic from Mobile to Rome, Ga.

Sailors said that a barge can transport 1,500 tons of material while a truck can only handle 20 tons. He added that barge travel has both a good safety and environmental record.

And while CARIA may not be an environmental group, they still take care of it.

Sailors said that the group recognizes that rivers must be kept clean for the sake of water supply, but also because the health of species living in the river depends on it.

People interested in contacting CARIA can reach them at their Montgomery office at 334-265-5744.