Posted February 17, 2011 01:01 pm - Updated February 17, 2011 01:11 pm

Getting along on the playground: can Georgia and South Carolina share the Savannah River?

Does history repeat itself?

 

A century and a half ago, South Carolina famously fired the first shots of the Civil War.

 

Earlier this week, the Palmetto State's Legislature launched what could become the opening salvo in a different sort of clash - over sharing the Savannah River with neighboring Georgia.

 

The 350-mile channel is more than a state boundary. It is used for drinking water, sewage dilution, recreation, hydropower - even nuclear power production. It also harbors some of the region's most sensitive ecosystems, including a 6,000-acre National Wildlife Refuge near the coast.

 

Most importantly, it is a shared resource jointly owned and managed by two states.

 

For decades, Georgia's exploitation of the waterway has far outstripped South Carolina's. Both states have committees that meet and communicate in hopes of warding off future controversy over sharing the Savannah.

 

So far, it has been mostly amicable. But the horizon is changing fast.

 

Now Georgia plans to dredge 26 miles of the river during a $600 million expansion of Savannah Harbor. If successful, the project will bring economic benefits to Georgia.

 

South Carolina, which is planning an expansion of its competing port in Charleston, is taking steps to block Georgia's project.

 

It's not just competition and economics, though. Also at stake is the environmental quality of coastal estuaries, the river's ability to assimilate waste and the fate of communities that rely on the river for drinking water and future development.

 

If you're interested in these issues, and how they will affect Augusta, you might enjoy our stories coming Sunday.