Lets start with this safe prediction: U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwoods proposal to take Clarks Hill Lake shore land away from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and give it to local governments, whether its a good idea or not, isnt going to become law.
In fact, the issue of whether the proposal is a good idea is almost beside the point. Whos ever heard of the federal government, once it has control of something, giving it up or turning it over to local management - voluntarily or otherwise?
It just doesnt happen. Want an example? Look no further than Augustas Riverwalk. Sure, its a nice - though somewhat weathered - downtown park. But it primarily serves as window-dressing for the flood-control levee the city maintains along the Savannah River.
Every year, city workers must scramble against the clock to prove that they can quickly close up breaches in the levee - gaps the Corps has only reluctantly allowed the city to dig to create public access to land along the river. In fact, the last two breaches in the levee were made possible, literally, only through an act of Congress (thanks to Norwoods predecessor, Doug Barnard).
Through the levees four gaps, visitors can look across the Savannah at the flat, beautifully landscaped riverfront being developed in North Augusta. Yet wed guess that rarely does anyone stop to think: Why dont they have a levee, too?
Well, heres where we bring on the ponderous, mind-numbing bureaucracy of the federal government. Augustas levee was built in 1919 to protect Augusta after years of deadly Savannah River floods. Even with the new levee, the city was hit with more flooding until, in 1944 - by another act of Congress - the Corps was authorized to build Clarks Hill Dam to provide flood control and recreation, and to generate electricity.
With the dam in place to keep the rivers level at bay, the levee is now an anachronism, right? Sure it is - but not to the Corps, which still requires Augusta to maintain its redundant structure. Anyone who wants to argue that the miles-long dirt pile isnt useless should explain why North Augusta isnt required to build one.
Norwoods bill would take away hundreds of miles of overprotected and underused shoreline from Corps of Engineers control. There are plenty of problems with his proposal - not the least of which is the likelihood that some communities arent capable of handling the responsibility.
Panicky lake-front property owners aside, well never find out if those communities can handle the job or not. As long as the Corps can keep Augustas riverfront view blocked by a useless mound of dirt, we arent about to believe the feds are going to cough up hundreds of acres of lakefront land.
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