The Savannah River Lock and Dam has been in disrepair for more than 10 years now. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 6, 2012)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Monday, Aug. 6, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tonya Bonitatibus's job is to know the Savannah River like the back of her hand, meaning she's been through the Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam hundreds of times.
"[The dam] breaks all the time. The inside wall, when you go through the locks now, actually visibly shake," she said.
She says the dam has been in disrepair for more than 10 years, but since it hasn't served its original purpose of aiding business transportation since 1979, the Army Corps of Engineers won't fix it. Instead, they suggested tearing the whole thing down, but the cities of North Augusta and Augusta disagree.
On Monday, stakeholders in the lock and dam, including North Augusta and Augusta, met with Congressman John Barrow. They announced the cities, along with other stakeholders, offered to fund a study for around $300,000 on how to fix it.
"You never get started on a marathon without taking those first few steps," said North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones.
He indicated the funding to actually rehabilitate the facility won't be here for a long time.
"There's no question it's going to happen; it's a question of when and how," Barrow said.
Part of answering how the project will be funded, Barrow explained leaders would look into existing projects to lift some of the costs off the local economy.
"One of those is the contribution the Savannah Harbor Expansion project has to taking up the cost," Barrow explained.
That project costs about $36 million and includes a fish ladder to get Sturgeon from downstream to above the lock and dam.
"So now we've got $36 million and $300,000 being spent on a very outdated dam," Bonitatibus said. "At some point in time, it's going to be put up or shut up time, not study time."
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