Relying on officials to save access to river

Published 10:50 pm Monday, September 17, 2012

Our elected officials claim that our beloved Alabama River is our ticket to tourism here in Selma and all around the state. But for some reason, our officials have not been fighting for the preservation of the river and the rules being locked on to the tourism source.

Recently it was announced, pretty quietly, that the locks and dams along the Alabama River would be closed to recreational traffic, changing our ticket to tourism from a first class seat into just a ticket for the parking garage miles away from the airport.

The details of what our river provides and the rich history it has given, are far too many to list.

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In an area with unemployment at more than 20 percent, we cannot overcome many more obstacles and we cannot afford to miss out on any more economic development ventures.

The announcement by the Corps of Engineers to close the locks and dams to recreational boaters is among a number of downgrades to the Alabama River system and what some would call neglect, including the removal of dredging funds from the Federal budget.

The political leaders in Alabama were completely left out of the Corps of Engineer’s conversations with something they say has been going on for some time now. Where were those at the top state level, our local government level and those who represent us in Washington?

According to memos by the Corps, they are doing this to save money at the national level, but that budget cut has the potential to severely impact our local tourism dollars.

The Times-Journal has covered multiple stories in the last few months specifically about new ventures brought to Selma with the hopes of the river being the main attraction. The new amphitheater on Water Avenue, the several scenic river trail boat trips that were planned to sweep through our city, and lets not forget about the brand new marina that has yet to even cook its first burger or pump its first boat full of gas.

This will not prevent the weekend boaters from moving up and down the local portion of the Alabama River. Many weekend boaters in fact never have to face a decision to move through the locks, but those that are venturing on multi-day trips up or down the river do, and it is those we risk losing, those who might find somewhere else to go visit, another river to travel.

We routinely talk about — as do our economic leaders — that our natural resources are among our most important economic assets. It’d be nice if everyone up the governmental food chain also understood how important these resources — primarily the Alabama River — are.