McMaster highlights opportunity for cyber in North Augusta; concerns for Lock and Dam

October 11, 2018

Aiken County leaders got to hear from Gov. Henry McMaster about some of the big issues facing North Augusta and the county right now: cyber activity and the Savannah River lock and dam.

The governor, up for re-election in November, was welcomed to North Augusta by Mayor Bob Pettit.

“Governor, we’re sitting right now in the epicenter of business growth and enterprise in North Augusta, and we are in the middle of an Opportunity Zone,” Pettit said.

“Governor, you took the action to designate this area as an Opportunity Zone, and it is without a doubt going to be a major asset for capital investment in this area, and it’s going to continue to grow and renew itself,” Pettit said.

McMaster talked about the “collaborative spirit” of South Carolina, and how that spirit can be applied to cyber activity. He mentioned the International Center for Automotive Research in the Clemson area.

“This place here, my prediction is it’s going to be the same thing for cyber right here, because of what’s happening across the river,” McMaster said. “And it doesn’t matter if it’s across the river or across the fence, or across a bunch of trees, or across the road, it’s right there. The river doesn’t make any difference. This town, this city, this whole area is right in the middle of cyber USA …”

North Augusta City Administrator Todd Glover also mentioned cyber, and that the Opportunity Zone designation that encompasses much of the city’s downtown, can help the city attract cyber business.

“We are ready to lead South Carolina’s cyber initiatives,” Glover said.

During a question session, S.C. Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, thanked McMaster for help with the Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, calling it a “very serious issue.”

North Augusta leaders have expressed an interest in a solution for the lock and dam that would retain current water levels.

The lock and dam is not currently being used, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering five options that would replace the defunct structure, only one of which would retain the current system.

Hixon said he would like to see the lock and dam repaired and not replaced with a rock weir, which is an option in one of the other four plans.

“My main thing is I don’t want to see the water level drop at all; I’d like to keep the same water level,” Hixon said.

Pettit also mentioned the lock and dam at the beginning of the lunch, mentioning that the Savannah River is a key element in Riverside Village, the North Augusta’s new development where SRP Park is located.

“We’ve met with you once already about the importance of keeping the river at the level that it is today. You know you can just look out the window and see how true that is. We thank you for your support in this ongoing effort, and I suspect I’ll be in touch with you again,” Pettit told McMaster.

Leaders need to keep the pressure on those in charge, McMaster said in response to Hixon’s comments.

“You know, if you don’t keep the pressure on them, people forget about you; the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so we’ve got to squeak because we’ve got the perfect case. We ought to win that case,” he said.

McMaster later said losing the current height of the river would be a big mistake.

“We want to keep the river at its current height, we don’t want to lower that because the infrastructure and homes and businesses and everything else along the river have been built there with the understanding that that is the height of the river, so we don’t want to lose that. That would be a big mistake.”

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