COLUMBIA — South Carolina and Georgia lawmakers are teaming up to take on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Not in a combative way, but in a manner the lawmakers hope affects how the federal agency manages lake levels.
There will be plenty of handshakes and pomp when a dozen or so Georgia lawmakers from Savannah River districts visit the S.C. Capitol Tuesday, but lawmakers from both states are also planning to address their shared river basin challenges.
The day will start when South Carolina members of the Savannah River Caucus host 10-15 Georgia lawmakers at the Blatt office building on the capitol campus.
Next the group will be introduced to the House Democratic and Republican caucus meetings.
The Georgia legislators will also be recognized by the House and Senate chambers, before the Savannah River legislators have lunch at the Capitol City Club, said Rep. Don Bowen, R-Anderson.
Bowen, who has been leading the joint caucus activities with Georgia Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, said Monday he and Powell would give presentations about the Savannah River basin issues at the luncheon.
“One of our main goals is to form a group of bi-state legislators who can work together to get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain more user friendly lake levels, so that our lakes don’t get so low,” said Ga. Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, in a press release.
“The main thing is we want everybody to have water and to give our constituents answers,” said S.C. Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, in February, soon after Bowen had begun drawing up a list of all the Savannah River legislators in South Carolina.
Participants have hailed Tuesday’s joint meeting as the first of its kind.
In the upstream portion of the Savannah River, lawmakers have said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lakes, doesn’t retain enough water in them to prevent the waterline from dropping.
Lake Hartwell and Lake Thurmond both fell 16 feet below full pool, exposing chimneys in Thurmond from houses that were inundated when the lake was built.
“One day the Corps of Engineers says something, then the next week or so, they’ll say something else,” said Hixon.
“We need to know what our levels are. Our drinking water depends on the river.”