While one of the projects is getting cooperation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding recreation on lakes in the upper part of the river, downstream legislators are also eager to be talking to their counterparts about deepening the shipping channel and developing a port in Jasper County.
Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, said Wednesday he had just received an invitation from South Carolina counterparts to meet in Columbia, S.C., April 16.
“We’ll meet their folks and talk about issues. We’ll reach out the hand of friendship to them,” he said.
The Georgia legislators formed the Savannah River Caucus with about 30 lawmakers whose districts touch the river that forms the state boundary. They’ve met weekly for the last month and are beginning to generate momentum.
“The congressman in my area, Doug Collins, read about it in the local paper and is all excited about getting involved,” said state Rep. Dan Gasaway, R-Homer.
The Georgia caucus sponsored House Resolution 532, which is up before the full House today (THURSDAY). It urges the Corps to reduce the flow of water out of the Savannah River lakes during drought so there will be ample water for recreational use which is critical to the region’s large tourism industry.
Powell said that when he presented the resolution last week to the House Natural Resources Committee, he won enthusiastic support from legislators along the Chattahoochee River who have the same concerns with the Corps’ management of their lakes. Such support, coupled with that from South Carolina’s state and federal lawmakers, could be enough to sway the federal agency.
“This is working out pretty good,” he said.
Downstream on the Savannah River, there are other issues drawing the attention of leaders from both states. One is the deepening of the shipping channel to accommodate larger freighters, a project that environmentalists and Charleston, S.C., politicians oppose for various reasons. The port of Charleston is one of Savannah’s biggest competitors.
Powell said downstream legislators have been supportive of the concerns for the upper Savannah lakes, and the upstream lawmakers will back their lower river colleagues.
“That’s how a caucus works, supporting each other’s positions,” he said.