Standing room only as Corps of Engineers hosts public meeting over Lock and Dam plan

Wednesday, November 13, 2019
News 12 at 11 o'clock

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Army Corps of Engineers held a public meeting to discuss their Lock and Dam plan, but it came without any option for public questioning.

The Corps declined to take public comment due to the lawsuit filed against them by South Carolina.

"There's been a lot of talk of compromise around the community, and I don't think that the way this meeting went tonight will bring anybody together," said Brandon Garrett, an Augusta commissioner. "I think it further divides us."

This was the second public meeting the Corps' has held for the Lock and Dam plan. People packed the Boathouse Community Center hoping to get some answers.

"It was just pretty much the Corps telling you what they're gonna do," said Brian Mckinstry, a Belvedere, S.C. resident, of the meeting.

But, Corps' officials did stay after to take individual questions on the side of the stage.

"We are listening," said Colonel Daniel Hibner, commander of the Savannah district of the Army Corps of Engineers. "We wouldn't be able to offer the opportunity to do something better if we weren't listening."

Hibner is named specifically in the South Carolina federal lawsuit. He says that better option is Alternative 2-6a.

"It brings your elevation to within inches of what you would have if you maintained the Lock and Dam and built a fish passage around it," Hibner said.

That option would involve building a taller rock weir than what's in the current plan. But, they say it can't be done without state and local funding.

"It's very interesting that all the options that he keeps throwing out are, you know, not the most cost-efficient for our taxpayers," Garrett said.

Those taxpayers showed up in full force on Wednesday night. They brought signs, t-shirts and tried to send a message.

"The shirt I'm wearing and the optics that were created to show that there's support for some change, and that the community is engaged," said Bob Trescott, an Augusta resident.

The Corps says that saving the pool is really out of their hands.

"If we can get past some of the frustration and start having a conversation, we can do something more and we can do something better," said Hibner.

The Corps also took time to correct what they say are misconceptions with their plan. They say under their current plan, industries along the river do have enough water for intakes.

Events on the river will not be affected either, the Corps says.