River must be open to traffic

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A few months ago, we wrote a story that was received with enthusiasm about a company

– New Gas Concepts – locating on the Alabama River.

That company is investing $135 million at the former state docks. But, there’s a problem.

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The company’s CEO Evan Bates, said the Alabama River must be navigable in order for the company to be successful.

Transporting their product by truck to Mobile would cost an additional $9 million a year, he said.

“We certainly never would have selected that site if we thought the river would not be navigable,” Bates said.

The problem is that the government designated the Alabama River as a low use waterway, so the funds needed to dredge the river are tough to get.

The counties that have access to the Alabama River must put pressure on our elected representatives to get the funding needed. That means everyone from state senators and representatives to Gov. Bob Riley to U.S. Congressman Artur Davis and U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions.

In 2006 the state was able to get $1.2 million for dredging the Alabama, but that wasn’t even enough to let a contract so a request was made to carry the funds over until additional dredging funds could be secured.

Inland waterways are the least expensive way to get product from plant to port and the millions of dollars being spent to truck material overland could be used to expand capacity and create more jobs.

If the river can’t be dredged, Black Belt counties will be the ones to lose out.

Bates put it rather bluntly. “We may lose $20 or $30 million, but we can move and locate in a state that maintains their river system better.”