U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, City of Augusta go to mediation over Lock and Dam
AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - The court battle continues over the future of the Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. The City of Augusta and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had a mediation meeting Friday as they work to find common ground. Until then, future plans are on halt until a deal is worked out.
After that two-hour meditation meeting, FOX 54 talked to Augusta Richmond County Commissioner Brandon Garrett to find out if they made any progress and we’re told a solution might be coming together.
“Talks are going well. It looks like both sides are kind of working toward a solution that will work for you know, not just the local interest but as well as the Corps,” Garrett said, “but one of the things that we’re focusing on here is making sure that we do protect our local interest.”
In November a court ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' plan to replace the Lock and Dam with a rockfish ladder was a violation of federal law if it would lower water levels. The corps appealed the decision and that’s why progress is at a standstill.
Georgia Congressman Rick Allen said the appeal doesn’t make sense to him. “We’re going to maintain that water, that’s what the judge said. No question about it. for whatever reason, the corps has appealed that. Now I don’t know where they’re going with this other than wasting taxpayer money,” Allen said.
The City of Augusta is part of the suit opposing the corps of engineers' plan to replace the Lock and Dam with a rock weir. Garrett believes the Lock and Dam is what makes the CSRA a river region.
“We look at the river as that thing that connects all of our area. Basically, from Columbia county down as well as connecting us to South Carolina so it’s that joining factor that we really want to make sure is a part of our landscape,” Garret said.
The corps was then told to come up with a new plan to provide a fish passage but also maintain water levels.
“The river definitely has biological aspects that we’re also looking at as part of mediation to make sure that we’re protecting that,” Garrett said.
Garrett said the corps reads the current law differently than the city which is why they’re in mediation working to find common ground where each understands the other’s position.
“Whether that’s finding habitat for them below the current dam or allowing them to pass the current dam structure to find that habitat which is one of the thing that we’re looking at,” Garrett said.
The final project will be up to the mediator who will conclude based on these discussions but at this time the city and the corps are still working to find common ground.
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