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Sunday February 7th, 2016 4:47PM

Army Corps revises plan to curtail locks

By The Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has revised its plans to severely curtail the operation of locks on the Alabama and Chattahoochee rivers.

The corps announced that beginning Feb. 1, the locks will be staffed 10 hours per day for four days each week for use by private vessels. Commercial traffic will be allowed to use the locks 24 hours per day, seven days per week by scheduling an appointment. The corps also agreed to modify operating hours to accommodate special events, such as large fishing tournaments.

The corps had previously planned to operate the locks only for commercial traffic and only by appointment.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said he's glad the corps modified the plans after public officials from both parties raised concerns about the economic impact.

``Alabamians have a right to utilize the incredible natural resources of our state, and I am glad the Army Corps has changed course,'' he said in a statement.

The corps had announced plans to curtail lock operations to reduce costs by basing service on historic usage patterns, spokesman Patrick Robbins said.

He said the locks on the two rivers will be staffed 10 hours per day, four days per week except on holidays or when the operators are on annual or sick leave. The locks will be staffed Friday through Monday from March through September and Monday through Thursday from October through February. Non-commercial traffic will be accommodated during those hours.

The hours for the locks on the Alabama River are 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central Time, and the hours for the Chattahoochee River locks are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time.

He said the locks' hours will be modified to accommodate not only special events, but season fish passages for environmental reasons.

He said the lock service will be reviewed annually and adjustments made if needed.
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