More than three weeks before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closes locks to recreational boaters downstream, Columbus Councilor C.E. "Red" McDaniel is seeking action from the congressional delegation to prevent the action.
"If this happens, it's going to kill our marina project," said McDaniel, a longtime supporter of a marina along the Chattahoochee River. "Nobody wants to come in here and spend $10 million to $15 million to build a marina and can't go all the way to the Gulf."
At the council's bi-monthly meeting Tuesday, McDaniel won approval of a resolution by a 9-1 margin with opposition from Councilor Judy Thomas.
All boats and barges are now able to bypass the dams at Lakes Walter F. George, or Lake Eufaula, Andrews and Seminole to the Gulf. By Oct. 7, traffic will be closed to recreational boaters and open only to commercial traffic by appointment.
Thomas said her opposition to the resolution centered on costs of keeping the locks open as well as the potential cost of a marina. The federal government can save thousands of dollars by closing the locks.
"I think we need to be very cognizant that there are federal tax dollars as well as local tax dollars," she said. "That's why I voted no."
Based on previous requests for proposals and past studies by the city, Thomas said people who build marinas have said such a project wouldn't be commercially sound. "I have some concerns about that part of the issue also," she said.
Thomas and other councilors didn't get to see the resolution until Tuesday at the council meeting.
"I did not know it was coming," she said. "That also concerns me. We didn't have any opportunity to take a look at it before."
To prevent closure of the locks, McDaniel said he plans to write letters to U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop Jr. and Lynn Westmoreland and U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss. "I would encourage everybody to contact their congressmen and senators to see if we can get this thing stopped," McDaniel said.
McDaniel said a couple of people were interested in a marina in Columbus before the Corps announced plans to close the locks.
"We need to stop it," McDaniel said. "It's going to really kill our marina project."
If the city was able to get a marina, McDaniel said such a project would complete everything that could be done along the river.