New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam: "New Consensus Solution"

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The Problem

The proposal by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (“the Corp”) to remove the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam proposes a real and potentially serious economic and public safety threat to the Augusta and North Augusta Communities.  The proposal stems from a combination of: a) the Georgia Port Authority’s mandate to create a new fish passage for the Atlantic Sturgeon above the dam to access the shoals above downtown; and language in the 2016 The WIIN Act that decomissioned the dam from Corp jurisdiction.  These two actions initiated a process wherein the Corp created what is commonly referred to as the “Rock Weir” alternatives (each replacing the dam - which functions to control the Augusta pool for recreation, municipal and commercial water usage and flood control - by a large, man-made, rock weir that would theoretically serve as a fish ladder - a method which has proven to be non-effective, ref: Cape Fear River, N.C. fish passage).  These alternatives fail to meet the technical requirements that Congress included in the WIIN Act. They are all entirely unworkable — because, if implemented, the pool  would be be lower than the minimum required by this law and the flood levels would be raised, also contrary to this law. Further, all of the weir alternatives considered would impose unnecessary and unreasonable technical, economic, human health, safety, and environmental risks on the citizens, businesses and municipalities of the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA). Moreover, the Corps has not shown that any of the plans will safely pass the targeted species of fish.

The Risks

According to the Corps’ Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) independent Post-Authorization Analysis Report and Environmental Assessment report (the Draft Report), the Rock Weir alternatives could . . .

1) Cost as twice the cost of repairing the Lock and Dam and constructing a fish bypass;

2) Lower the river pool (notwithstanding the WIIN Act’s direction to the contrary), as demonstrated by the Corps’ river drawdown test in February 2019;

3) Potentially cause increased flood risks (in spite of FEMA regulations prohibiting raising the flood level) during rain events.

4) Result in permanent loss of river navigation;

5) Reduce access to the river from adjacent properties;

6) Cause siltation and debris buildup behind a weir;

7) Include temporary loss of the pool during weir construction; and

8) Impose an uncertain environmental and economic future for the CSRA on both sides of the river.


The SMS Solution includes the following major components:

Rehabilitate the Dam for WIIN Act compliance: navigation, water supply, recreation, and flood regulation;
Construct a workable Fishway around the Lock and Dam on the South Carolina side that meets the requirements outlined in the Draft Report (Note: Illustration herein is from Corp Study on GA side. The Solution proposes S.C. side as previously engineered and approved prior to 2016 WIIN Act)
Retain the Lock and lock wall for possible future adaptive management measures, if needed;
Adapt the Lock to enhance alternative fish passage success
Evaluate localized spawning habitat enhancement projects for endangered species downstream;
Retain the Lock and Dam Park 
Provide for operation and maintenance of the project (possibly joint)


The New Solution respects both science and law and benefits both SHEP and the Middle Savannah River Communities. This alternative is currently the most cost effective, practical, workable, and protective solution that serves all needs and:
Maintains a steady pool for water supply to the cities of North Augusta, SC and Augusta, GA and to important industrial users;
Maintains pool regulation at Elevation 114.5 and minimizes flood conditions 
Preserves the navigability of the Savannah River 
Provides an improved fish passage that provides mitigation to the negative impacts of Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP)

By signing this petition, I endorse the New Consensus Solution described herein and attached in detail a www.savethemiddleriver.com