AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — A crowd came together Wednesday at the Boathouse Community Center to protest the Army Corps of Engineers’ intention for the lock and dam, packing the building to the point of standing room only as hundreds joined the collective cry to keep the pool deep.
The Army Corps of Engineers says it wants to tear down the lock and dam and replace it with a rock weir. That could cost more than $30 million.
“Let Richmond and Aiken Counties work together to create a solution to this problem that doesn’t impact our property taxes; and all of our economic development in Augusta and North Augusta,” said Aiken Realtor, Jane Paige Thompson.
The Corps says it would be open to a taller rock weir option, but only if the Georgia Ports Authority covers the cost increase. Thompson told NewsChannel 6 reporter, Devin Johnson, people in South Carolina, feel left out in the decision.
“This is a property rights issue not only for people who live on the river but all of the taxpayers in Aiken County that have to pick up the slack for the tax increment finance plans that were put in place to improve the Riverfront in North Augusta,” explained Thompson.
Experts say the smaller rock weir would lower the river by about two-feet. Opponents say the pool’s current levels are vital to Augusta’s prosperity. The Corps’ goal is to get an endangered species of fish to pass through.
“Just because it is on the endangered species list doesn’t make any of the hundreds of birds, fish, and wildlife species less important,” said the president for the Friends of the Savannah River Basin, Mary West.
West says the Corps’ plan will hurt tourism. She says it’s up to citizens to get lawmakers to step up and save the pool.
Also, the members of congress need to pay attention to what they are doing,” said West. “Augusta is the second-largest city in Georgia, and they are going to kill it.”
After the presentation, the Army Corps of Engineers said they wouldn’t be taking questions. However, you can contact them by the links below.
Photojournalist: Will Baker