Plans for lock and dam remain in talks among Army Corps and congressmen

Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 6:27 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The fight to keep the lock and dam has been a heated debate between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and those who want to keep the Savannah River how it is. But there’s now a glimmer of hope for progress.

At the start of the year, this facility could see its new future. It’s coming up pretty soon, but Congressman Rick Allen told us he’s more encouraged than ever.

“I’m going to be with President Trump in Macon, Ga. And I’m going to talk to him about it, too. I’m going to tell him what a great guy this colonel is,” Rep. Allen said.

It was a more upbeat meeting than usual between the Corps of Engineers and congressmen.

Rick Allen is encouraged, for the most part, because of Col. Jason Kelly. Kelly was new to the fight when he took command in June.

“It’s our interest to get this right, and that’s what we aim to do,” he said. “This community’s interest is important to me. It’s important to the Savannah district.”

But the Corps' plan is still moving forward. The plan would tear down the cracking lock and dam and build a rock wall, of sorts, with enough room for fish to swim through.

Yet they say they are willing to pivot.

“There are modifications that can be made to the current plan. It costs money,” Col. Kelly said.

But local leaders ask: what’s it worth? A new amphitheater by SRP Park in North Augusta? Economic growth along the river? It’s all at stake.

“No construction here will begin until we have that solution,” Rep. Allen said.

South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson says South Carolina is likely to file an injunction to stop construction from starting.

But legislation may be the solution. After all, the Corps is just following orders from previous legislation. So leaders like Rep. Bill Hixon are working to give them new orders to prevent them from tearing down the dam.

“I don’t want to spend one taxpayer dollar on this project until we can all come to an agreement on what will work and do it right and do it one time,” Rep. Allen said.

The corps says once they begin their plan in January, there are still options for a different solution. They say their goal is to be transparent and work to get the best option for everyone.

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