U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson doubled down Friday on his support of maintaining the Savannah River pool level and retaining the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.
Wilson’s annual legislative agenda tour Friday touched on a variety of topics of local interest, including the lock and dam, pit production at Savannah River Site and economic growth.
Regarding the lock and dam, Wilson mentioned that it is a bi-state issue and said he has enjoyed working with North Augusta Mayor Bob Pettit. Wilson also mentioned that Mayor Hardie Davis of Augusta, Rep. Rick Allen of Georgia, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and the U.S. senators in both South Carolina and Georgia have been involved.
“Every level of government has been unified to work together on both sides of the Savannah River,” he said.
Wilson said he is grateful that the Attorney General of South Carolina, his son Alan Wilson, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed removing the lock and dam and building a set of rock weirs to replace it as part of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project’s fish passage project. The Corps of Engineers has stated the project would lower the pool level near downtown Augusta by around 2 feet on average. The state filed a suit to prevent the Corps from removing the lock and dam and lowering the river.
“To me, it’s perfectly clear; and that is the (Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation) Act provided that the pool should be maintained at 114.5 (feet),” Wilson said.
“We’ve already seen – when they did an estimate of what the consequence would be by lowering – what would occur. It was disastrous; we don’t need to learn that again,” Wilson said, referencing the February 2019 drawdown exercise held by the Corps.
Pettit, who Wilson invited to stand next to him during the press conference, said Wilson’s support regarding the lock and dam is “nothing new.”
“Since my first day in office, the first time I talked to Congressman Wilson about the lock and dam, he said, ‘Mayor, I’m here to support what you want, what’s best for North Augusta.’ And I think this is just a continuation, nothing new. I didn’t have any qualms about listening to his answer because I knew he was supportive of us in any action.”
Wilson also talked about happenings related to the Savannah River Site.
“I’m just so grateful that in the most recent … National Defense Authorization Act that we were able to maintain that there should be a two-site solution for pit production. That’s very critical for our country, and I appreciate President Trump’s leadership on that,” Wilson said.
The Department of Energy has proposed manufacturing plutonium pits, which are nuclear weapon cores, at both the Savannah River Site and the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico.
Pettit called Wilson’s support for the two-site solution “encouraging.”
“I think that’s essential for a long-term mission and national security,” Pettit said.
Wilson also praised the development of Riverside Village during the conference.
“The jobs created, gee whiz, it’s fantastic,” he said.
Wilson touched on a variety of national issues as well, including national debt, foreign affairs and the Friday morning killing of Iranian military general Qassem Soleimani.