Sunday, December 16, 2007

12/15 - Area faces some 'gritty' issues

Date: December 15, 2007
Section(s): Frontpage
By BRANDEE A. THOMAS
The Brunswick News

With an economy supported heavily by tourism, local officials know it is important to maintain attractions that draw visitors to Glynn County, including its waterways.

But getting the federal government to agree is a whole other matter, U.S. Jack Kingston, R-1, told attendees at the annual Grits and Issues breakfast Friday on St. Simons Island.

So far, attempts to get funding to deepen shallow areas caused by unchecked silting in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway have been for naught.

"The reality is that the Army Corps of Engineers' interests are confined to navigable waterways," Kingston told the audience at Epworth by the Sea for the event sponsored by Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce.

It will take more than $2 million to dredge some of the shallow areas. That's more than the federal government is willing to spend on a channel that is used mostly by recreational boaters in the South.

Kingston, whose district includes the waterway, said it may be time to look for other sources of revenue - someplace more local than Washington, D.C.

"Georgia needs to set up state and local funding sources for the continual dredging of recreational waterways," Kingston said.

"The message we're getting from Washington is that they are not concerned about continually dredging recreational waterways, but there are local reasons why we need to ensure that the waterways stay clear."

The economic impact of recreational boaters is tremendous, which is why the waterway should be kept clear, he said. In some areas of the Intracoastal, the water is barely 2 feet deep at low tide.

Along with Kingston, other elected officials fielded questions at the breakfast meeting. State Sens. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, and Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, were in attendance, as were state Reps. Roger Lane, R-Darien, and Cecily Hill, R-St. Marys, and Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island.

Members of the state delegation were asked to comment on the proposed $441 million redevelopment of Jekyll Island, a state-owned park.

Keen, who is House majority leader, said he is in favor of breathing new life into Jekyll and Williams rebutted claims that the island will become unaffordable to average Georgians.

1 comment:

Rosemary Lynch said...

I agree with Rep. Kingston that the state must take a more pro-active role with the maintenance of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW), however, we can not allow the federal government to relinquish their responsibility for this inter-state water highway. If the federal government had maintained the waterway as authorized by the Rivers & Harbor Act (1937) there would be much more commercial traffic using it. One barge can take 58 trucks off the highway! Imagine the positive impact on the environment if the waterway could be used more by commercial tugs and barges. Using the waterway is clean, quiet and smart!

We are at risk of losing a national treasure. The citizens of Georgia need to encourage and support an equal partnership between the federal government and the state of Georgia.

Rosemary M Lynch
Executive Director
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Assn.