Projects at SRS could get boost

Almost every state and federal agency hopes to benefit from President Obama's proposed $819 billion economic stimulus plan, but the Augusta area actually could see the impact of dollars that could flow into Savannah River Site or water projects on the Savannah River.

Early versions of the package, which will evolve as it moves through the House and Senate, include $4.5 billion to $4.6 billion for Army Corps of Engineers water resources projects and $500 million (House version) to $6.4 billion (Senate version) for cleanup of U.S. Energy Department nuclear weapons sites.

Jim Giusti, an Energy Department spokesman at SRS, said it is too early to tell whether any specific projects could be undertaken with new dollars, although there is plenty of work to do as soon as funding is available.

"If we get money we do work," he said. "In general, if we got more money, we would accelerate projects we already have in the pipeline."

The site is involved in an array of cleanup programs related to the disposal and storage of nuclear wastes from decades of operations.

It is too soon to discuss specific projects because those details are under development, he said.

"Once a bill is passed, it will depend on the color of the money, and it will tell us in which areas it can be spent," he said.

Similarly, the Corps of Engineers has little to say about how additional money would change the scope and priorities of major capital projects.

"I can't talk about pending legislation until it becomes law," said Billy Birdwell, the spokesman for the corps' Savannah District.

Discussions are under way regarding what requests the district would make if more funds become available.

"But those are internal deliberations -- things we cannot talk about until legislation is passed and signed by the president," he said. "We have projects we could activate, but until we know exactly what the law says, only then would we decide which water projects have the highest priority."

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.