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Guest column: Lock and dam should be maintained

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Kelley Mobley

Kelley Mobley

Like two banks of a river, there are two sides to every story. Delving into the facts and opinions surrounding the Savannah River and the rock weir project is like jumping headfirst into turbulent waters and coming up for air cold, muddy and confused. The issue is complicated and complex, and it’s meant to be. It’s government.

The bottom line is that in the year 2000, promises were made but were not kept. Had the government followed through with its promises in 2000, the lock and dam and the fate of the Savannah River would not be a topic of debate today. The issue would be settled and the lock and dam would be in the hands of the communities to whom it rightfully belongs. Instead, the preservation of the lock and dam and the promise to hand its care over to the people got swept off the table faster and trickier than a Class 5 rapid. Since that time, the Army Corps of Engineers and an environmentalist organization known as The Savannah Riverkeeper have jumped on their opportunities to take control, seemingly leaving us, the people of North Augusta, Augusta and Aiken County, out of the game. If we don’t act now, they will take what is ours and there will be no way to get our waters back from their grip.

Our Savannah River is a symbol of life, of athleticism, of times gone by and of moments to come. It represents arrival and it offers escape. When her waters recede, those things will recede with her, never to return.

The Corps of Engineers will tell you that the lock and dam does not serve a functional use anymore. They want to build a rock weir as an alternative to repair and maintenance of the lock and dam. They tell us that the rock weir will be better for the sturgeon, in hopes that we’ll ignore the receding water along the banks of the river.

The truth is that we have never been able to trust the corps to hear our voices, stick to their word, or consider the wants and desires of our communities. The truth is that there is no proof that a short-nosed sturgeon, the fish they claim to suddenly care about, has ever actually used a rock weir fish ladder.

The truth is that the Corps of Engineers once committed to give us, the people of North Augusta, Augusta and Aiken County, the lock and dam to care for and maintain, but they scratched that offer and used legislative maneuvers to backpedal on their commitment. How can we possibly trust them to maintain the water levels after they build the weir? When it comes to the corps, their words and their actions don’t usually align.

Our mission is one resolute mission, to save the lock and dam.

The leaders of Augusta, North Augusta and Aiken County will tell you that, in this case, there is nothing unfixable with regards to the lock and dam. In fact, it isn’t 100% certain that there is even anything broken to begin with. The truth is that the lock and dam is wanted by people in our community. The truth is that we want our river waters protected. The truth is that we want to do the work to maintain the lock and dam and repair it if necessary. The only way we can insure that happens is if we are allowed to have what was promised to us, but was sideswiped away.

To the people of North Augusta, Augusta and Aiken County, we are in the 11th hour. It is a mighty river versus a mighty government, and the people who love her, the people on both sides of her banks, should fight to keep her in all her beauty and majesty.

Ask yourself this: Who should be at the helm of the vessel we know as the lock and dam? The Corps of Engineers who notoriously control without accountability and without giving answers? The environmentalist known as The Savannah Riverkeeper who plays perfectly into the hands of special interest groups, collecting checks underneath the veil of activism? Or the people of North Augusta, Augusta and Aiken County who have been born, raised and fed mentally, spiritually and literally from this river – our river?

I encourage you to google past write-ups by Noel Schweers for a deeper look into the facts and a timeline of information regarding the history of this issue. We also have S.C. Rep. Bill Hixon and S.C. Sen. Tom Young Jr. to thank for helping us in our attempts thus far to save the lock and dam.

If your home is in Augusta, you represent the Georgia banks of our mighty river and I encourage you to write, email or call Congressman Rick Allen and ask him to save the lock and dam.

If your home is in Aiken County, you represent the South Carolina banks of our mighty river and I encourage you to write, email or call U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and ask them to save the lock and dam.

If you are a resident of North Augusta, I encourage you to vote for people who want to protect what is ours.

If you admire the work of environmentalists, I encourage you to be an environmentalist by helping to take care of and tending to what is ours.

If we do nothing, we have no chance. We are already running out of time. The lock and dam will be taken by the Corps of Engineers, and they will act according to their folly. When the waters recede, rocks and uncertain water levels will be the only compensation we receive.

If you would like to know more about how you can help, please reach out to me. I’ll be at home frying up fresh-caught Savannah River shellcracker, that, with all due respect to my opponent David Beja, I am not afraid to eat.

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