South Carolina state reps fight for future of Lock & Dam

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Thursday, March 14, 2019
News 12 at 11

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- North Augusta, Aiken, and the entire state of South Carolina are fighting the Army Corps of Engineers harder than ever on their plans for the Lock and Dam.

During the drawdowns, an area was really hit hard with extremely low water levels. Local leaders just voted to add a new condition to the state budget they think will slow the corps down, while they come up with their own plan to deal with this.

Dean Durand has lived in River North for 20 years.

"Savannah is benefitting from the deepening of the harbor, and we're getting shafted," said Durand.

The recent drawdowns on the Savannah River as part of an Army Corps of Engineers test made his dock go down drastically.

“If it goes that way, property values in this neighborhood are dead. We'll lose $100,000 a lot or better," said Durand.

He's unhappy and he's not alone.

"Ideal thing would be to save the lock and dam, put the lock and dam back in place," said Durand. "Governor McMaster said we're not gonna have that."

Representative Bill Hixon and the Aiken Delegation have been hard at work with one goal in mind.

"We are hopefully going to get some people to take a look at what it would take to repair the lock and dam better than it ever was like it was brand new," said Hixon.

South Carolina entered the fight only recently but is moving fast.

"We restricted them on spending or using any state money," said Hixon.

A new budget restriction bars DHEC from issuing licenses or permits to the corps of engineers.

"I'm not sure it's going to put a stop to their plans but I think it puts a big yield sign up, saying 'look hold on, we need to sit down with South Carolina and try to make them happy," said Hixon.

He and other reps have rallied state leaders behind their cause. Hixon says the corps has not explored all the possibilities.

"I think they looked at the options they wanted," said Hixon.

The Aiken Delegation has also instructed SC DNR to a second study of fish levels in the river, so they have their own data to match up with the army corps'.

"If they don't see the yield sign, we're gonna have to put a stop sign up," said Hixon.

Representative Hixon says their next step is to wait on SC DNR's new study, to see where the fish levels are in the river.

He says based on that, and if the corps continues to pursue action, they'll start drafting their own plan for the lock and dam and possibly take the corps to court.