SRS job losses prompt action

Lawmaker presses for 2 states to talk

COLUMBIA --- Aiken County's state legislators and their counterparts in Georgia are planning to meet jointly to discuss the threat of job losses at Savannah River Site's H Canyon facility in addition to a host of issues related to the use of the Savannah River, which the states share.

Nothing is on the calendar yet, said freshman Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, adding that pressing issues between the states demand that a date be finalized shortly.

Last month, the Aiken delegation met in Columbia with officials from the U.S. Department of Energy's SRS and its primary contractor, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, to voice their concern for a portion of the president's 2012 budget that shifts about $100 million from H Canyon operations to liquid radioactive waste disposition operations.

On Wednesday, Hixon, who is trying to coordinate the meeting of the two legislative delegations, said that the change could mean a loss of nearly 1,000 jobs and that phasing out H Canyon "would be like shutting down the heart of the operation."

South Carolina lawmakers are hoping to work with their Georgia counterparts to find a champion in Congress who will help save H Canyon.

Hixon said he also expected the Georgia and South Carolina delegations to address Atlanta's interest in tapping their water supply, along with issues of usage and navigability of the Savannah River, including Georgia's plans to deepen Savannah Harbor.

"We've got to have ports and we've got to have drinking water," Hixon said, but he declined to offer specifics.

Relations between the two states have become increasingly tense, because South Carolina lawmakers have opposed Georgia's harbor-deepening ambitions and the states' respective ports authorities have aired differences.

Palmetto State officials say the deepening plan will harm South Carolina's potential usage of the river and obstruct construction of a proposed two-state Jasper Ocean Terminal a few miles south of the harbor on the South Carolina side of the river.