The first meeting of the new Savannah River Caucus was made up of men who slipped away from other commitments around the Capitol to establish an organization that may sponsor legislation and lobby federal officials. Working with a similar caucus being established by their South Carolina counterparts, the organizers want to safeguard the tourism and farming interests tied to lakes on the upper end of the river that is the border between the two states.
“I think the common bond of this caucus will be water issues,” said Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell.
Those attending Tuesday were from Augusta and upstream communities where the river is damned for form a series of lakes. They are frustrated that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that manages the lakes doesn’t retain enough water in them to prevent the waterline from dropping. Lake Hartwell and Lake Thurmond both dropped 16 feet below full pool, exposing chimneys in Thurmond from houses that were inundated when the late was built.
“What we want to do is rewrite that drought-management plan,” said Rep. Tom McCall, R-Elberton.
Powell said that the caucus and the South Carolina verson will have enough influence to get the Corps’ attention.
The river touches nine state Senate districts and 20 House districts in Georgia.
Members on the lower end around Savannah are concerned about getting federal funding to deepen the river’s shipping channel and dealing with saltwater intrusion into the Floridan Aquifer they draw drinking water from. Powell said they would get involved in those issues as well if members ask them to.
An issue that affects resident all along both sides of the river is inter-basin transfers, the withdrawing of water from one rainwater-drainage basin for use by people or businesses in another. Powell and McCall have tried several years to outlaw the practice but have run into roadblocks because people in metro Atlanta depend on the transfers.