Chattahoochee- It's been said, all it takes to change the world is a small group of dedicated people. Well, more than 100 boats showing up last weekend in protest may not have changed the world, but it did change the future of the boat lock at the Jim Woodruff dam in Chattahoochee.
It was a last ditch effort. If nothing else, an expression of dissatisfaction.
We asked local fisherman, Rae Windham if he would've ever imagined the floating protest would make a difference. Windham laughed, "No ma'am!"
In fact, even, "Save the Lock" organizer, Ben Castro admitted he too had his doubts. "To my surprise, the Corps of Engineers did listen."
When around 100 boaters, state and local government officials showed up for the floating protest, the US Army Corps of Engineers took notice.
"Senator Jeff Sessions- Alabama; a lot of lay representatives; Sandra Bishop out of Georgia and US Congressman, Steve Sutherland was a big help" Castro explained of the success. "They communicated with the 'powers at be' with the Corps of Engineers in Washington DC."
Locals told us the issue has always been as much about protecting their rights as it had been about protecting the lock.
"I don't think its fair for a small group of people like the Corps to shut the gates and say, 'You no longer have access to the river'" said local boater, Norman Dunaway.
Windham added, "It just didn't seem right for them to shut us out of going to both place as once."
Castro told us he believed the event helped bridge communication between public officials and the people they serve."[The Corps of Engineers] are going to start communicating with community leaders and listening to grass roots movement."
The decision to leave the lock came by way of compromise. According to a statement released by US Army Corps of Engineers, the new hours of operation will go into effect February 1, 2013. The changes are as follows:
"Locks on the two river systems will be manned 10 hours per day, four days per week. Locks will be closed on holidays and when lock operators are on annual or sick leave. Locks will be staffed Friday thru Monday during the spring and summer (March – September) and Monday thru Thursday during the fall and winter (October thru February)."