Originally created 07/30/00

Local dam needs traffic



New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, which needs $6.8 million in repairs, also needs some boat traffic this summer.

The aging dam -- gateway to the most beautiful stretch of the lower Savannah River -- is passing only two or three boats per month, according to Carl Nechtman, chairman of the Augusta Ports Authority.

"I'd like to see it at least used 20 or 30 times a month," he said. "That would achieve a lot of interest in our river."

Part of the problem, most likely, is that people think the lock is broken. After all, the Corps of Engineers wants to close it because it needs extensive -- and costly -- repairs.

But Nechtman points out that the lock is functional, and that $1.5 million was spent to keep it operating in recent years. All it takes to go through the lock is a phone call and a reservation.

Anyone wishing to be locked through to the lower Savannah should contact the Augusta Marina at 722-1388 and schedule an opening, Nechtman said.

The Ports Authority wants to boost the use of the lock, and boost interest in the river.

One plan, Nechtman said, is to approach the Savannah Chamber of Commerce to encourage better promotion of the lower river as a tourist attraction to boaters closer to the coast.

NEVER ENOUGH SNAKES:

Two new snake species have been discovered in Georgia, according to Department of Natural Resources biologist John Jensen.

The central Florida crowned snake, which inhabits north-central Florida, was confirmed as being found in Georgia. A specimen collected in Lowndes County now resides at the Georgia Museum of Natural History.

"This is the only individual known from Georgia, but we hope this discovery will lead to additional sightings," Jensen said. The snake is non-venomous.

In an unrelated discovery, amateur herpetologist Jack Blue Jr. recently brought a Brahminy blind snake he found in Wayne County to the Savannah-Ogeechee Canal Museum in Savannah.

Although not native to the U.S., the harmless snake is established in south Florida, Hawaii and other tropical areas. Due to its abundance in tropical plant nurseries, and its tendency to burrow in potted plants, it is sometimes introduced accidentally through plant shipments.

Jensen doubts the Brahminys will reproduce in great numbers across Georgia, however. "The colder climate may prevent their long-term existence."

HUNTER SAFETY CLASSES:

Got a youngster planning to hunt this fall? It's best to schedule hunter safety classes early because they often fill up when it's closer to hunting season.

The classes include lessons on gun safety, sportsmanship and other topics of special value to young hunters. Old hunters can benefit from these courses, too.

In Richmond County, classes are scheduled from 6 to 10 p.m. on Aug. 9-10, Sept. 13-14, Oct. 11-12, Nov. 8-9 and Dec. 12-13 at Eisenhower Army Medical Center auditorium at Fort Gordon.

In Burke County, classes will be held Aug. 17-18, Sept. 20-21, Oct. 17-18 and Nov. 14-15. All classes are in the Burke County Office Park from 6 to 10 p.m.

In McDuffie County, classes are scheduled from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 15-17, Sept. 19-21, Oct. 17-19 and Nov. 14-16 at Thomson Middle School.

In Georgia, anyone born after Jan. 1, 1961, must have a valid Hunter Safety certificate to purchase a hunting license.

For information on hunter safety requirements and programs, contact the Thomson, Georgia, DNR office at (706) 595-4211. Advance registration is not required, but participants must attend all classes to receive a certificate.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119, or rpavey@augustachronicle.com.