U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, issued the following comments today after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced its revised lock operation plans for the Alabama and Chattahoochee Rivers. Sessions organized a letter advocating for the change in plans:
"I'm pleased that, after receiving our letter last month, the Army Corps held a public meeting to hear from stakeholders and ultimately agreed not to close the Alabama River and Chattahoochee River locks. Alabamians have a right to utilize the incredible natural resources of our state and I am glad that the Army Corps has changed course. We will continue to monitor the situation."
On September 17, Sessions organized a letter signed by U.S. Representatives Jo Bonner, Martha Roby, Mike Rogers, Robert Aderholt, Mo Brooks, Spencer Bachus, and Terri Sewell to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy regarding the Corps' decision to implement operational changes at several locks in Alabama. The letter expressed concerns with the Corps' decision and stated that "the Corps should not proceed with implementing its level of service initiative in this manner." Instead, the letter explained that "all stakeholders should be provided with a meaningful opportunity to offer comments on the proposal," and it urged the Corps to "work directly with our constituents to address site-specific needs, such as necessary accommodations to ensure operation of locks for important events such as large fishing tournaments, busy recreational seasons (particularly the summer months), and other times when reliable lock service is necessary and warranted." The letter also urged the Corps to "evaluate all possible options that will both maximize the efficient use of taxpayer funds while also ensuring that our nation's marine highways remain open to all Americans."
Today, the Corps announced revised lock operation plans for the Alabama and Chattahoochee Rivers beginning February 1, 2013. Under the revised plan, the locks on these rivers will be manned 10 hours per day, four days per week. Commercial boats will be allowed to lock through 24 hours per day, 7 days per week by scheduling an appointment. The Corps also committed to modify lock operating hours to accommodate special events such as large fishing tournaments.