On Jan. 16, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water from the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. On Jan. 17, the river had dropped several feet. At the lock and dam park the river banks began to slide into the river and many boat docks and boats were resting on the ground. On Jan. 18, the river had dropped about five feet to 5 feet 6 inches.
On Jan. 18, the 6 p.m. news, WJBF-TV interviewed Col. Joseph Schmitt of the Corps of Engineers. When asked what he thought about the river banks sliding into the river and washing away the park tables and trees, and boat docks, he said, "I don't think this is very significant." He also said the river did not drop as much as the Corps of Engineers had expected. I can't believe he made such statements.
In the draft Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam in Georgia and South Carolina, Col. Schmitt states, "From the information supplied by my staff, I find that the proposed action is environmentally sound and sufficient data are available to determine that the proposed action is not a `major federal action significantly affecting the human environment' when considered individually or cumulatively in the context of the National Environment Act, including both direct and indirect impacts.'
Remember the Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for the Richard B. Russell Dam Reversible Turbines stated that the pump-back would not have any significant impact on Lake Thurmond and Lake Russell. Well, I hope everyone will now realize what I have been saying all along. A Finding of No Significant Impact really means "Yes, we know we are going to impact the water quality and fisheries of Thurmond Lake and Lake Russell, but it is not going to be that bad."
This is what the Corps of Engineers is really telling us in regard to the opening of the lock and dam and the Russell Dam pump-back: Trust us, we are the government, we are here to help you.
I think it is time that the Corps listens to the cries of the public and lets us tell them what is significant.
Ed Lepley, Martinez
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