Originally created 09/18/02

Dam on schedule



Congress hasn't forgotten the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. It just seems that way.

Last year, Congress put up $800,000 to renovate the 65-year-old dam located below Augusta.

And this month a key House committee OK'd pumping another $276 million into the project.

The Lock and Dam became a major issue two years ago when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended decommissioning and removing it because the dam no longer served commercial navigation, the purpose for which it was built.

The dam did serve the public interest in other significant ways, however, including maintaining appropriate water levels along Riverwalk Augusta and key riverbank properties elsewhere in Augusta, North Augusta and throughout the region.

So, it was agreed upon that instead of getting rid of the decaying, weather-damaged dam, the Army Corps would rehabilitate it and then the area's local governments would take over its ownership and maintenance.

But Congress would have to approve the funds for the renovation, and that's where we are now. U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., who played a key leadership role in putting the plan together, is encouraged by developments in the House.

The extra $276 million in funding OK'd by the House panel for the pre-construction, engineering and design phase "ensures the project will stay on schedule for a timely completion," says Norwood who describes the rehab project as "becoming a real success story for Richmond County."

He's right, providing the full House and then the Senate continue to cooperate with the dam's funding needs.

An election year is an especially good time to encourage Congress - through Norwood and other federal lawmakers in the two-state area - to follow through on its commitment. There are few issues more important to the Central Savannah River Area than saving that dam.