Lock & Dam: River plays big role in Augusta's history and future

Tuesday, November 5, 2019
News 12 at 11 o'clock

It's no secret that most of you did not agree with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to get rid of the lock and dam. (Source: WRDW)

SOUTH CAROLINA (WRDW/WAGT) -- South Carolina officially filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the Lock and Dam plan.

Attorney General Alan Wilson says the Corps is ignoring federal and state law. Leaders on both sides of the river say they want to hear the truth from the Corps in court.

Their goal is to maintain the Savannah River Pool. Without it, they say area development, homes and businesses will be affected. Leaders say the Lock and Dam isn't just an aging block of concrete.

"It's a character-defining feature of our community on both sides of the river," said Erick Montgomery, executive director of Historic Augusta.

It is character-defining, Montgomery says, because it created Augusta as we know it.

The river pool, created by the Lock and Dam in 1937, made the city appealing to business.

“It caused the city to boom, but they couldn't have done that without this impoundment of water to supply the water needs for the industries that are up and down the river," said Montgomery.

Industries are still using that water. When they saw what happened during the Corps' test in February, they had big questions.

"Yes, they have uncertainties. Because they know, better than I do, that the Corps did not reach the goals that they established for the drawdown," said North Augusta Mayor Bob Pettit.

Mayor Pettit met with Kimberly Clark and other riverside businesses. He's worried lower water levels may lead to losing business.

"If they have to spend a large amount of money to get the water that they need for their production, maybe there's a better alternative, maybe they'll consolidate, maybe they'll move away,” said Mayor Pettit.

Montgomery says history shows maintaining the pool is a decision for the future.

"Not only do we need to maintain the resources that are provided for existing industry, but if we hope to generate more industrial sites then we still need those resources," said Montgomery.

For many, keeping the water high will keep the city afloat. Yet, the Corps says the pool was never created for businesses to use the water or for recreation in the first place. Its original purpose of commercial navigation ended in 1979.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the city of Augusta are looking over South Carolina's lawsuit. They're expected to file a lawsuit of their own in the upcoming weeks.

Leaders also discussed it during a legal meeting, and we'll let you know what happened at a later date.

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