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City leaders pump brakes on Savannah River lock, dam reimagining

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 6:17 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - City leaders are pumping the brakes on plans for a reimagined riverfront.

New gates, fishing docks and whitewater rafting are all part of new plans just released by the Savannah Riverkeeper.

Now that the ideas are on the table, the next step is getting everyone else on board.

The city of Augusta says not so fast for the Savannah Riverkeeper’s proposal. The main goal is to keep river levels at the right point. But the city says the proposal still needs to be vetted and the cost is a big concern, too.

Other than the sounds of insects, the reel of someone fishing and the sound of the river, the lock-and-dam area is quiet like it has been for years.

But the new proposal from the Savannah Riverkeeper could change that.

“It becomes a hub for your kayakers, canoers, tubers — the kind of folks you want using your river, this becomes a beacon to bring them in,” said Tonya Bonitatibus of the Savannah Riverkeeper.

The Riverkeeper plan is called Savannah Run at Convergence Park. The goal is to get rid of the old dam and put in 20 crest gates to maintain water levels and create a path for fish to travel safely.

In a statement, the city of Augusta says it didn’t have anything to do with the formation of the plan. But the Riverkeeper presented it back in May. The city agreed with the goals, but has questions about the cost and effectiveness of the gate concept.

“This is an amazing team of experts that have come together — recreation experts, fish experts, to come up with a solution,” Bonitatibus said.

The city says any proposal needs to be vetted by a team of engineers and biologists from Augusta, state and federal agencies. The city also says the Army Corps of Engineers and Georgia Port Authority would be footing the bill, but their pockets are thin.

The statement says, ”Their budget and resources are extremely limited. While a recreational whitewater amenity would be most welcome in Augusta, we are not aware of available funding.”

The city of North Augusta says it also didn’t have any part in forming the proposal.

So it looks like until all parties involved can reach an agreement on what to do next, the lock and dam will stay put as it is.

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