'It joins our region together': Debates continue for plans on the lock and dam

Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020
News 12 at 6/NBC at 7

The lock and dam remains the same as debates on plans for the future continue. (Source: WRDW)

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- The New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam debate seems to have gone on for long enough, but now it's a race against time.

With lawsuits from both South Carolina and Georgia waiting in the court system, the Corps of Engineers is pushing forward to their January 2021 construction deadline.

"This is what provides us with the economy we have," Augusta Commissioner Brandon Garrett said. "It provides us with infrastructure. It provides us with a great water source. I think it's worth everything."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is moving forward to tear down and rebuild the structure as a rock weir. They say they are following the SHEP Biological Opinion of 2017 which calls for construction to begin by 2021.

"I wouldn't even call it construction. I would call it destruction," Garrett said.

In order to get things moving, Augusta is putting together a task force to study different ways to save it.

"We want to be able to say, 'Here's the plan that we've come up with. Here's the numbers and actual data', which is something the Corps has not been willing to share with us," Garrett said.

However, U.S. House Rep. Rick Allen plans to file a bill next month with a different solution, and on the other side of the river, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham's office is working on their own bill.

With all the different plans, we are told lawyers from the Georgia Ports Authority and South Carolina plan to meet before going to court. Local leaders say it's a significant step towards a potential compromise.

Nevertheless, the Corps continues on with designing their own solution.

"The Savannah River is the one thing that joins our region together, so unless we can do everything we can to maintain what we know as our river, then what else can you fight for?" Garrett said.

News 12 is told by representatives on the South Carolina side that hypothetical solutions are being talked about with some big implications. Some are even hoping this issue could be settled before going to court.

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