The Army Corps of Engineers’ decided Tuesday to take out the Lock and Dam and replace it with a rock weir and fish passage. The decision comes after city leaders in Augusta and North Augusta fought to keep the structure in order to save the upstream pool.
The corps says a taller weir would increase the pool level, but that would cost an additional $27 million, which the federal government is unwilling to pay.
North Augusta leaders continue to express concerns about how river level changes could affect business.
“The river, it’s an integral part of what we tried to do down there,” says North Augusta Mayor Bob Pettit is disappointed by Tuesday’s announcement. In part, because of what he says it means for one of the city’s largest investments–Riverside Village.
“Riverside Village so that’s what it’s about is to tie the river into the development,” Mayor Pettit emphasizes. “We’re building the park with the amphitheater, which again is right on the river. The amphitheater seats are going to be looking out to the river.”
While he fears how lower water levels could affect the project, Mayor Pettit says they will still keep going.
“We as a city are going to continue in developing and investing in Riverside Village. We have a huge investment in there now. People love it,” Mayor Pettit says.
Others have concerns about boat races, boat tours and water sport rentals.
“When the water level drops, it’s going to ruin the marina. I just can’t believe they’ve done it,” says concerned citizen Patricia Clayton.
NewsChannel 6 also talked to Savannah Rapids Kayak Rental. They tell us a river draw down does not impact them directly since they are further up the river; however, they have been paying attention to news about the Lock and Dam because they have concerns about their friends and fellow business owners who are down the river from them.
It is more than just the smaller businesses who are trying to calculate the impact. Big industries wonder what the future holds for them considering water flow can impact production. Mayor Pettit gives an example.
“Kimberly Clark– they were concerned because they monitored the flow… so how do these industries extrapolate what existed during the draw down in February to what it’s likely to be if the weir gets installed,” Mayor Pettit points out. “They’re going to have to do some serious looking at the impact on their water intake.
The State of South Carolina threatens to sue in large part because of the potential economic impact from the lock and dam’s removal.
Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins