The Aiken Standard: Guest column: Calling for public comment on lock and dam
The effects of the drawdown last week by the Savannah District Army Corps of Engineers were disgraceful. As North Augusta Mayor Bob Pettit has continually stressed, we cannot have a riverfront neighborhood without a river. I am grateful to be working together with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott and Congressman Rick Allen on the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. I appreciate the significant contributions of North Augusta Mayor Bob Pettit, City Administrator Todd Glover, S.C. Rep. Bill Hixon, Sen. Tom Young, and many other local officials who have been working tirelessly on this issue.
The Corps’ approach to the project and our concerns have been unsatisfactory, and many questions remain unanswered. The language of the 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act states: “to maintain the pool for navigation, water supply, and recreational activities, as in existence on the date of enactment of this Act.” On Sept. 15, 2016, Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue jointly introduced draft language as an amendment to the pending WIIN Act. Unfortunately, there was not additional clarification on the Congressional intent of the language. It seems crystal clear to me that this law would certainly require the Corps to maintain the water level at this recorded height in their Draft Recommended Plan. According to information from the U.S. Geological Survey, the water level of the Savannah River at the 5th Street Bridge varied between 113.5 and 114.5 feet.
The Corps states that their implementation guidance interprets the language to mean the current functionality of the pool must continue to allow for water supply, recreation and navigation, as it did on the date of the enactment. The Corps argues the alternatives they considered maintain this functionality. It is sad to me that the Corps would interpret the WIIN Act in a way which hurts our riverfront community.
Today marks day 11 of the public comment period. I am glad to hear that the Savannah District Corps of Engineers has now extended the comment period an additional 30 days to be able to fully listen to and understand the concerns of the community. The comment period will end on Tuesday, April 16, at 4 p.m.
Corps leadership must listen to the response from the community. I urge everyone to view the report online at www.sas.usace.army.mil/About/Divisions-and-Offices/Planning-Division/Plans-and-Reports/ and submit their comments by mail to: Savannah District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Planning Division, ATTN: Ms. Robin Armetta (PM-P), 100 West Oglethorpe Avenue, Savannah, GA 31401-3604 or by email to: CESAS-PD@usace.army.mil.
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., is the U.S. Representative for South Carolina's 2nd congressional district, serving since 2001.