Ga., S.C. lawmakers to discuss Savannah River issues

Friday, March 15, 2013 7:58 AM
Last updated Saturday, March 16, 2013 12:26 AM
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ATLANTA — Legislators from Georgia and South Carolina who represent districts along the Savannah River will meet next month in Columbia.

One issue is about getting cooperation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding recreation on lakes on the upper part of the river. Downstream legislators are eager to talk about deepening the shipping channel and developing a port in Jasper County.

“We’ll meet their folks and talk about issues. We’ll reach out the hand of friendship to them,” Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, said of the April 16 meeting.

Georgia legislators formed the Savannah River Caucus with about 30 lawmakers whose districts touch the river. They’ve met weekly for the past month and are beginning to generate momentum.

“The congressman in my area, Doug Collins, read about it in the local paper and is all excited about getting involved,” said state Rep. Dan Gasaway, R-Homer.

The Georgia caucus sponsored House Resolution 532, passed by the House Thursday. It urges the corps to reduce the flow of water out of Savannah River lakes during drought so there will be ample water for recreational use, which is critical to the region’s tourism.

Powell said that when he presented the resolution last week to the House Natural Resources Committee, he won enthusiastic support from legislators along the Chattahoochee River who have the same concerns about the Corps’ management of their lakes. Such support, coupled with that from South Carolina’s state and federal lawmakers, could be enough to sway the federal agency.

“This is working out pretty good,” he said.

Downstream on the Savannah River, there are other issues drawing attention of leaders from both states. One is the deepening of the shipping channel to accommodate larger freighters, a project that environmentalists and Charleston, S.C., politicians oppose for various reasons. The Port of Charleston is one of Savannah’s biggest competitors.

Powell said downstream legislators have been supportive of the concerns for the upper Savannah lakes, and the upstream lawmakers will
back their lower river colleagues.

“That’s how a caucus works, supporting each other’s positions,” he said.

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