Seeking common ground at Lock and Dam

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AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) – Fixing this old dam and keeping it in place is what Augusta Commissioners wanted back in June, and it’s what many want on both sides of the river, to keep the deep pool back up stream.

“What we need to do is be on the same sheet of music, both North Augusta and Augusta because we share the same river. It affects both sides the same way,” said Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle.

Augusta Commissioners holding a work session on the future of the Lock and Dam.

The Corps of Engineers officials telling commissioners congress has two options. Both call for replacing the old dam with a rock weir, that takes care of a mandate of allowing endangered fish to pass.

But opponents say a fish passage could be built and the dam could be refurbished.

“It’s been allowed to deteriorate, for 30 or 40 years, on the watch of the Corps I might add, so it shouldn’t surprise anybody that it’s in bad shape,” said Tom Robertson, of the group Save the Middle Savannah.

Those who want to keep the dam believe it’s the best way to protect the upstream pool, but the Corps of Engineers says protection of the pool is federal law no matter what option is selected.

“Some form of rock structure or weir, that would maintain the pool in Augusta, Either way, Augusta gets to keep it’s pool, that’s guaranteed by federal law, said Russell Wicke, a Corp of Engineers Spokesperson.

“The good news is the federal law has already been changed, the pool is now protected for the very first time and so moving forward we just have to come up with a good plan and what we’re going to do with them,” said Tony Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper.

Both sides do support saving the locks at Lock and Dam to let boats continue to travel up and down the river or as a white water center.

There is a deadline looming. The Corps of Engineers says it will be presenting its options that, by law, can’t include fixing up the dam, by Summer.

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