The potential closure of the locks at Jim woodruff dam in Jackson County is causing quite a stir. Saturday it brought together boaters, city and county officials, and a US congressman at Lake Seminole in Sneads.
"We may not have quantity but I sure see a lot of quality out there," says Chattahoochee City Manager Lee Garner as he addresses a smaller than expected crowd at Save the Lake and Lock Day at Lake Seminole.
He says Chattahoochee has spent a lot of money through grants and city funds to improve the area and boost ecotourism. However he says the potential closing of the locks at Jim Woodruff Dam would keep that tourism from booming.
Congressman Steve Southerland received a letter from concerned citizens last month which prompted him to send his own letter to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. "We are beginning dialogue with them because I am not satisfied until you have been a part of the equation," he said as he addressed the crowd earlier Saturday. Southerland says he's determined to continue communicating with the corps.
Jackson County Commissioner Jeremy Branch joined the discussion too. "It's not just a recreational issue," he says. "It's an important small business issue." Jackson County commissioners recently passed a resolution and sent it to state and federal lawmakers urging them to keep the locks open. "We don't have factories or manufacturing in Jackson County," says Branch, "and what's happening with state government cuts to our public state institutions with our prisons, then our natural resources are the only thing we can turn to, and this negatively affects that."
Bill Smallwood, the Operations Project Manager for the Apalachicola Chattahoochee Flint Rivers Project says a proposal has been submitted to the Corp of Engineers' headquarters in Washington. It's proposing alternative ways to meet cost-cutting requirements while also serving the voting public. Smallwood says closing the locks is a way to save money and studies found the locks at Jim Woodruff Dam do not get enough use. He says it is possible that the locks will not close on October 77th, as previously scheduled.