Potential Lock Closure Causing Controversy - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Potential Lock Closure Causing Controversy

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"It's freedom...its just one of our freedoms," says Ben Castro, a resident in Sneads and a fisherman on Lake Seminole and the Chattahoochee River. He says closing the locks at the Jim Woodruff Dam and the two other locations located on the river keeps fishermen from boating up and down the waterway and instead having to trailer around.

"To me, it's like let's just close down the highway in places out there." "I if the Federal Government just comes in and closes our waterway, its like a martial law being imposed on us," says Castro.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers says it's an effort to cut costs and save money. They looked at locks all across the nation and classified them into how often they are used for both commercial and recreational traffic.

"Unfortunately the three locks on the Chattahoochee River that we operate are all classified as low use," says Bill Smallwood, Project Manager of the Apalachicola Chattahooche Flynt Rivers Project, on behalf of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

In 2011, the lock at Jim Woodruff Dam opened 145 times and let 197 boats through. Smallwood says its not enough traffic, therefore leading the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to close the locks October 7th and leave them open to commercial fishermen by appointment only.

But while a date has been set, Smallwood says the organization is still looking into other ways to save money. Chattahoochee City Manager Lee Garner says finding an alternative way would be appreciated. He says the lock closure would have a negative effect on the area's tourism. he says going through with the closure would have a negative affect on the areas tourism.

"It would just be the nail in the coffin with what we're trying to do here," says Garner. Especially when the city has spent a significant amount of money on trying to boost eco tourism to the area, which he calls, "a jewel that has not been mined yet."

Garner and Castro are planning to protest the closing. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners have also taken action. They passed a resolution a couple of weeks ago opposing the closure.