Leaders react to Corps’ new river plan

Published 9:44 pm Thursday, October 11, 2012

Following the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision on Wednesday to change the lock hours of operation along the Alabama and Chattahoochee Rivers — a decision that will also allow recreational traffic to travel through the locks during the new hours of service, members of Alabama’s Congressional delegation who have been following the Corps’ plan spoke out.

“I’m pleased that, after receiving our letter last month, the Army Corps held a public meeting to hear from stake holders and ultimately agreed not to close the Alabama River and Chattahoochee River locks,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said in a statement Wednesday. “Alabamians have the right to utilize the incredible natural resources of our state and I am glad that the Army Corps has changed course.”

Sen. Sessions organized a letter signed by himself and six other U.S. Representatives addressing the Corps’ decision to implement changes to the locks without notifying and speaking with the stakeholders –a decision that restricted all recreational traffic through the locks. Sessions added that although changes to the plan have been made, he will continue to monitor the situation.

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U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell was one of the U.S. Representatives who signed on to Sen. Sessions’ letter to the Corps.

“My office has been working closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and stakeholders in developing a workable solution to the operational issues surrounding the Alabama River locks,” Sewell said in an official statement.

Sewell said she was encouraged by the Corps’ decision to modify lock hours of operation.

“While the amended decision is not perfect, I believe it represents a reasonable compromise and reflects recognition of public outcry concerning the importance of the Alabama River and other waterways throughout the state,” Sewell said. “This decision provides certainty to those using the waterways for economic and recreational purposes, while still adhering to the budgetary constraints of the U.S. Army Corps.”

The changes in lock operations announced Wednesday by the Corps will not go into affect until Feb. 1, 2013.

“As of right now, nothing has changed,” Pat Robbins, public affairs officer for the Mobile District said. “From now to the first of February, nothing will change.”

The Corps needs time to transition, Robbins said.