Thumbs up:To turning debris into energy:

A biomass facility at Savannah River Site is making good use of the more than 20,000 tons of debris generated by Winter Storm PAX.

The plant, which opened in 2012, actually reprocesses wood chips into electricity that can power plant operations at the Site instead of it all going into area landfills.

By processing the debris, Ameresco Incorporated – an energy efficiency and renewable energy company at SRS – will be generating benefits throughout the community as it helps with cleanup efforts in an environmentally friendly way. Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian told the Aiken Standard that the company’s operation is a “win-win for everybody,” particularly because of the costs of so many downed trees. This is a positive sign for green energy production in our area, and hopefully one that can be expanded in the future.

Thumbs down:To the death of Juilliard in Aiken co-founder:

Gregory White Smith will be remembered as a world-renowned author, an organizer of one of the most special events in our community and bringing a drive and imagination to everything he touched. Smith, a co-founder of Juilliard in Aiken who died on Thursday, was always dedicated to the arts and will leave a legacy as one of the best preservers and cultivators of history and culture in the area.

He was 62 when he died at his home after suffering from a rare brain tumor. Smith co-authored 18 books with his husband Steven Naifeh, and won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography about acclaimed painter Jackson Pollack. Betty Ryberg was Smith’s neighbor for 20 years and said he gave us “a leap into a world that would further make Aiken into a finer place.” That sentiment undoubtedly rings true.

His dedication to the community and his passion in guiding us forward will never be forgotten.

Thumbs up:To the Horses and Courses Art Walk:

More than 40 artists and 12 performing artists ventured to downtown Aiken on Tuesday to entertain locals as well as the influx of guests sparked by the Masters.

From musicians and painters to wood workers and jewelers, each year the event attracts flocks of people to our community and puts a beneficial spotlight on our downtown. Businesses stayed open later than usual to accommodate the crowds, and store owners also featured certain artists outside their shops. Developing these kinds of relationships and events helps to ensure that Aiken sustains a vibrant downtown.

That kind of activity generates economic benefits throughout the community, and boosts the efforts of small business owners, which are the lifeblood of our local economy. It also helps to showcase talented artists and continue the City’s efforts to cultivate art and creativity.

Thumbs down:To the endangerment of the Edisto River and its resources:

The South Fork of the Edisto River has been ranked sixth out of the 10 most endangered rivers in 2014, a disconcerting statistic for one of the most vital natural resources in our area.

According to a press release by the nonprofit conservation organization American Rivers, the river was included on the list because of excessive water withdrawals. Most recently, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control approved the withdrawal of up to 805 million gallons of water monthly from the river by Walther Farms, which has plans for a potato farm in the area.

This should put much needed attention on issues involving our natural resources, especially rivers such as the Edisto that provide drinking water and outdoors activities.

While economic opportunities shouldn’t be trounced, a sensible balance needs to be found by officials to ensure our environment is protected, while businesses are allowed to grow.