Safety concerns close portions of the New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam

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New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam (Uploaded to WikiMedia Commons by Civilengtiger)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW)- It's an aging piece of history sitting in the Savannah River. Erosion has been a growing concern at the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.

Erosion has been a growing concern at the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. There are the safety concerns with the structure, too. Starting May 15, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will close the lock on the Savannah for safety reasons.

"I probably fish here more in the past two months than I have totaled up the other 53 years," Kenny Vann said. "It really broke my heart to hear that they were going to close it down and not let people go out and fish."

Cracks in the wall are visible but it's what lies beneath that's the problem.

"It's the foundation that we're mostly worried about. It was built on timber piles and there's been some erosion around the timber piles, and we're concerned about the stability of the wall with erosion of its foundation," said dam safety program manager Beth Williams.

Divers were in the river Tuesday, looking at the base of a structure that was built in 1939.

"We've got a diver in the water, and he's got a camera and he's going down so he can point the camera at different things. Our engineers on the boat can take a look at what he's seeing," Williams said.

Divers haven't been down in these waters since 1999. Then, the estimated cost of repairs $24 million. It's been over a decade and that number could be even higher, but its up to congress to allocate funds to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"It gets very little funding each year. It's in a caretaker status so it gets just enough funding kind of maintain it as it is today without doing a lot of work to it," Williams said.

The Corps says the lock wont re-open until it's safe and repairs have been made which may not happen in the near future.

"I don't believe there's been any funding allocated for repairs," Williams said.

Vann said he wouldn't mind seeing his money going to fix the problem.

"I would love to see my tax dollars go towards fixing this. [They should] make it to where people can come out and enjoy it," Vann said.

Click here to see photos of the dive from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District.


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