March 21– Mar. 21–U.S. Reps. Joe Wilson from South Carolina and Rick Allen from Georgia held a joint press conference Thursday morning near the riverfront to talk about the fish passage project and the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam and what needs to be done to maintain the river’s pool level.
“I’ve never seen the community come together like we’ve come together on this issue.” Allen said.
“This is a two-state, bicameral bipartisan issue,” he said.
Allen mentioned Wilson has had a meeting with Mark Esper, Secretary of the Army, and said after the public comment period they would meet with the Corps to come up with an agreement.
“We delivered a letter to the Secretary of the Army expressing our concern about the process and the fact that, you know, the Corps needs to listen to the community. So we went right to the top,” Allen said.
Wilson said that he, Allen and U.S. Senators from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, have all indicated support for the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which required that the pool be maintained.
“That’s what we believe, that the law should be followed, which provides that there will be a pool, that there will be a proper level of water for this extraordinary community, whether it be for recreation, navigation, water use of all kind,” Wilson said.
Wilson said they support Alternative 1-1, which would retain the dam and provide fish passage on the Georgia side of the river. Since the WIIN Act deauthorized the Lock and Dam, Allen said there would have to be legislation that would repurpose and reauthorize the dam.
Allen and Wilson also held the press conference Thursday to encourage the public to attend a meeting at the Augusta Commission chambers Thursday afternoon that will allow people to make comments on the issue.
The hearing will be held from 5-7 p.m. at the Augusta Commission chambers at 535 Telfair Street in Augusta.
Lindsey Hodges is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star. Follow her on Twitter at @LindseyNHodges.