Area Legislators Forming Savannah River Caucus

By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia

Area state legislators are forming a caucus that they hope will force some changes in how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the Savannah River water basin.

The group met February 12 for the first time in Augusta to discuss goals and share ideas.

Franklin and Hart County State Representative Alan Powell said the main purpose of the caucus is to get federal lawmakers involved.

“I understand politics and as state legislators, we can write all the letters we want to, but the Corps of Engineers doesn’t have to listen to us. They don’t fall under the State of Georgia, they fall under the federal government,” Powell said. “It takes an assemblage of U.S. Congressmen and U.S. Senators. There are six or seven Congressmen in Georgia and South Carolina and two Senators. That might be enough to get the Corps to take another look at what they’re doing.”

Powell said they hope to appeal to all of the Georgia Congressman, the two U.S. Senators from Georgia.

He also said South Carolina lawmakers are looking at forming their own caucus.

“Our counterparts on the South Carolina side I understand might be trying to put together a similar caucus,” Powell said Monday. “Then we would have a multi-state caucus that could force some change because the issues we’re concerned about on the Georgia side are the same issues they’re concerned about on the South Carolina side.”

According to Powell, one of the issues discussed last week is the problem of inter-basin water transfers.

Powell said legislation he put forth several years ago has largely stopped the Atlanta Metro Water Authority from being able to tap into the Savannah River Basin or the Tennessee River. However, he said it is a different story in South Carolina where water is being taken out of the Savannah River and sent to Greenville and Greenwood.

Powell also said other issues the Caucus plans to address in future meetings include the Corps’ management of water levels in Lakes Hartwell and Russell.

“I have continually heard over the years that the mission of the Corps’ management of these lakes is flood control and power generation,” Powell said. “If recreation was put into the federal statute as part of the purpose of these reservoirs, then they (the Corps) might have to look at their policy regarding the draw down on these lakes.”

Those state lawmakers near Savannah, Powell said, are concerned with issues such as the new port dredging among other things.

According to Powell, the caucus plans to meet weekly.