Lawmakers secure $3 million for Marion County Lake

Like having patience with fishing pays off, officials are asking the public to have patience for upgrades to be made to the Marion County Lake that will greatly increase the useability, enjoyableness and longevity of the natural attraction.

By Les Walters
Editor emeritus

HAMILTON — The Marion County Lake will soon be the site of more than $3 million in structural improvements after more than two years of negotiations directed by Rep. Tracy Estes (R-Winfield) and Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman).
The secured funding will be directed through the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources with the funds being used primarily to make repairs to the lake’s existing dam located on the west end of the lake.
The county lake is located one mile south of Interstate 22 near Exit 16, but has been annexed into the Hamilton city limits within the last two years, as part of the improvement efforts. The lake and surrounding property of more than 300 acres are owned by the State of Alabama.
“Allow me to express my personal gratitude to Rep. Tracy Estes for his never-ending work on this project,’’ Hamilton Mayor Bob Page said.
“Were it not for him, this project would have never materialized. He has been a champion for this project and has a full understanding of what these improvements will mean, not only for the City of Hamilton, but also Marion County and the surrounding area.
“He has been faithful from the very first step in this project and will also be remembered for his commitment to seeing this project through to the end. He has been very persistent.’’
The mayor also praised Gudger and Gov. Kay Ivey for partnering with Estes and the Hamilton City Council on this project.
“Having the senator on board and knowing the governor is supportive means a great deal,’’ Page added. “We are blessed to have such a strong legislative team in Sen. Gudger and Rep. Estes because they work so closely together and with us to find new ways to improve Hamilton and the remainder of their respective districts.
“Believe me, directing $3 million back to our district was not a small task, and these men are to be commended for their collective effort.’’
‘A long time coming’
Local lawmakers expressed their appreciation to the mayor and other members of the team.
“This has been a long time coming and in terms of actual physical work, we are just beginning,’’ Estes said. “Mayor Page and the council have been wonderful partners from the start. Having Sen. Gudger in our corner has certainly been a bonus, as well as department of conservation director Chris Blankenship and his team.
“Allow me to also express my heartfelt gratitude to Gov. Kay Ivey for her commitment to this investment in Marion County—an investment which will have far-reaching effects beyond the county once the entire project has been completed.’’
Gudger agreed, stressing, “Gov. Ivey is to be commended, as is director Blankenship, Hamilton Mayor Page and his council. I am honored to have been a part of the team, but also want to express my appreciation to Rep. Estes for taking such a leadership role in this project and staying on top of the funding from start to finish.
“We are honored to direct this funding back to Marion County. I will admit this has been a long time in coming and required a great deal of work, but I am anxious to see the final product and how this improves the lives of people in our district.’’

Funding initially cut, back in budget with $1 million
more requested
The legislative delegation initially requested $2 million for the project two years ago only to see this and other special projects cut from the general fund budget finally adopted by the Alabama Legislature for the current fiscal year, ending on Sept. 30, 2024.
Upon further on-site inspection of the dam, Blankenship recommended Estes and Gudger request $3 million for the project. The senator and representative worked with the general fund chairmen in the Alabama House of Representatives (Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville) and Senate (Greg Albritton, R-Atmore) to officially request funding for the project in the Fiscal Year 2025 budget, which begins on Oct. 1, 2024.
In a recent conversation with Estes, Blankenship confirmed his office was moving forward with the design and engineering portions of the project with funding in the current budget. Doing so would leave most, if not all, of the $3 million earmarked for the project to be used for actual structural repairs to the dam…

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