April 19– Apr. 19–More than 460 comments poured into the Savannah District office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over its draft recommendation to use a rock weir fish passage to replace New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.
As of Thursday, two days after the end of the 60-day comment period, the office had received 464 comments, district spokesman Russell Wicke said.
“We may get a couple more in the mail,” he said, and the Corps will accept any comment postmarked Tuesday or earlier.
Interestingly, that is almost the exact same number — 466 — that the Corps received in 2017 when it was soliciting public comment on what option to pursue with the lock and dam.
“That is uncanny,” Wicke said.
The Corps has just started to sift through and read them, although the agency is required to read and respond to every comment. Some are probably form letters where a number of people signed a common response and sent it in but others are over 100 pages.
“The weightier ones, we haven’t had a chance to get into yet,” Wicke said. Those are also the ones that usually come in last because the commenters wanted to take the full time to respond, he said.
“They take more into consideration,” he said. “They usually have a better understanding of the river system. And of course, responding to them will be more technical in nature, too. You’re talking engineers talking to engineers at that point.”
Those comments could shape or change the recommendation, Wicke said.
“The public comments can have a big influence,” he said. “If there’s some substantial things in there that we need to address (that could) change the project, it could change the recommendation. And that could extend the time a little bit. We’re hoping not to be too far off the timeline.”
If things go as expected or close to it, that would see a final draft recommendation incorporating those comments sent to the South Atlantic Division headquarters in Atlanta sometime in June and a final recommendation from that office in August or early September. And it may not be what the Savannah District recommended, Wicke said.
“The South Atlantic Division has the authority to change it.” he said.