By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) sent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a “strongly-worded letter” begging the Corps to reconsider a decision changing the lock usage policy along two Alabama rivers: the Alabama and the Chattahoochee.
Governor Robert Bentley said, “The rivers in Alabama are extremely important for recreational use in some very unique places in Alabama. It is also my priority to promote economic development and job creation. Our waterways play a major role in transporting goods through the state. Reducing the level of service on Alabama rivers will significantly harm economic development. I strongly urge the Corps to reverse its decision and not reduce the level of service for recreational and commercial boats along our rivers.”
The Corps has recently announced plans to cut costs by closing the locks to recreational boating on the Alabama River and the Chattahoochee River. Beginning this month, commercial vessels will be able to use the river locks at Miller’s Ferry Lock and Dam in Wilcox County, Claiborne Lock and Dam in Monroe County, Walter F. George Lock and Dam in Barbour County, and George Andrews Lock and Dam in Houston County by appointment only.
Gov. Bentley wrote, “I strongly encourage the USACE to reconsider the navigation decisions regarding lock usage on the rivers in the state, specifically the Miller’s Ferry Lock & Dam, Claiborne Lock & Dam, and George W. Andrews Lock & Dam.
Gov. Bentley said, “The Corps’ navigation decision will hurt financially both in the present and long term. Miller’s Ferry Lock & Dam, for example, is located in Wilcox County. Unemployment in this county is at 19.6% will1 a 72% black population and per capita income of $12,573. This region depends on the river for economic vitality. A recent economic impact study released by the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association (ALBBA) reveals that anglers and hunters create an estimated 10,980 jobs, $283 million in salaries and wages, as well as $60 million in state and local taxes.
The navigation system along the Alabama River is used to help ship goods to the Port of Mobile, and both of the rivers offer recreational boating which promotes tourism in many areas along the river system.
Gov. Bentley wrote, “Navigation systems contribute to growth and prosperity. For this impoverished region to be further restrained from development would be devastating. The USACE Service Guide for operating service directs district engineers to “consider all factors including the impact on workforce, navigation interest, and recreational users.”
Depriving recreational boaters from using the locks means that mean vessels like houseboats are essentially trapped in their home lakes. Smaller boats will have to trailer and then be trucked around the dams and re-launched