Augusta Ports Authority reboots, plans role in Savannah River activities

 

 

In a meeting room overlooking the swollen Savannah River, a reinvigorated Augusta Ports Au­thority is proposing creating a management document to bring all the city’s uses of the river under one plan.

Authority member Frank Carl, who claimed the idea as his own, said that after several relatively inactive years the board has decided not to
dissolve and to refocus its efforts on the needs of Augusta’s publicly-owned stretch of river frontage.

“As much as activity has picked up along the river, I can see events colliding,” said Carl, a former Savannah Riverkeeper director. “The momentum is there.”

The plan, which is still in its infancy and lacks funding, would accommodate the area’s recreational uses – such as the River­­keeper’s plans for an education center and kayak facilities, the annual ESi Ironman 70.3 triathlon and two events, Paddlefest and the Augusta Southern Nationals, canceled or postponed recently because of rising river levels. The plan would also deal with the area’s industrial and public utility uses, Carl said.

The authority is still grappling with organizational issues and spent much of its meeting Thursday reviewing inconsistencies found in its contracts with marina operator Mobile Marine.

The marina also was befuddled by a city and Army Corps of Engineers decision to padlock the marina without consulting Mobile Marine when water levels were rising, according to member Mike Barnes.

Safety is the most pressing concern because the river is expected to remain at flood levels for at least three more weeks, Ri­ver­keeper Director Tonya Bonita­tibus said.

On Wednesday, a family with two children tried to navigate the river in an inflated raft, she said. They escaped safely, but Bonitatibus warned boaters about entering the river
once waters recede, as familiar features might have washed away.

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