Last month, U.S. representatives and CSRA neighbors Charlie Norwood and Gresham Barrett introduced a bill to provide a sensible starting point for a problem that has plagued residents around Lakes Hartwell, Thurmond and Russell for far too long. The problem: the heavy-handed, illogical and overly bureaucratic ways of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - more specifically, how these ways have continually left many residents around the lakes high and dry, and with little or no means of recourse.
Since its introduction, the bill (the Savannah River Lakes Private Land Ownership Restoration Act, H.R. 2753) has been the subject of numerous news stories, letters to the editor and opinion columns. Unfortunately, the accuracy of much of the information used to describe the bill has been as assorted and varied as the viewpoints that have been expressed about the bill.
In the spirit of it getting right, here are some quick facts about H.R. 2753.
If signed into law, the bill absolutely would take excess land around the three lakes away from the federal government and give it back to the surrounding counties. This would ensure that local residents are finally given a direct say in how the land is used, a voice in disputes, and an opportunity to benefit from any revenue generated by the land.
However, if signed into law, the bill absolutely would not exempt the Corps from continuing its responsibility to oversee and maintain the lakes (lock and dam included) and provide water quality management (including flood control and boat dock permits) that residents have come to expect from the Corps and depend on every day. Under the bill, neither the safety nor pristine quality of the lakes would be jeopardized whatsoever - period.
Put another way, this bill would see to it that the Corps remains on the job in Lakes Hartwell, Thurmond and Russell to continue doing what it does best - but at the same time, would relieve the Corps of its current duty to provide reasoned but responsible solutions to land-users - an exercise it understands and practices the least.
Ultimately, the bill introduced by Norwood and Barrett recognizes the need for both a practical and needed Corps presence with the lakes, along with greater input and benefit for the people who live around them. More importantly, it realizes that a starting point in making both a reality shouldnt be a pipe dream and is long overdue.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood
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