$16.4 million for Lake Thurmond in federal stimulus funding

Thurmond Lake will receive $16.4 million in American Recovery & Reinvestment Act improvements that will accelerate projects ranging from campground renovations and road paving to critical repairs needed in the dam and powerhouse.


“When we chose these projects, we needed things that were quick,” corps spokesman Billy Birdwell said. “The terms the administration used was ‘shovel ready,’ so we needed things we can get started on right away.”

In all, the Savannah District announced funding commitments Tuesday totaling $94.3 million, which includes the Thurmond Lake projects and other allocations at Savannah and Brunswick harbors, the Intracoastal Waterway and Lakes Russell and Hartwell upstream from Thurmond.

Thurmond Lake’s biggest items include $3 million in campground renovations that will bring many of the popular corps recreation sites up to modern corps standards, Mr. Birdwell said.

County water will be installed at Lake Springs and Ridge Road Campground, and studies of the endangered shortnose sturgeon will be conducted to help determine how much water must be released into the river during spawning season, especially during droughts.

“All of these projects have received some kind of appropriations or approval before,” Mr. Birdwell said. “There are no new starts here, but rather, these are things that we had in the mill, just waiting to be funded.”

The availability of federal stimulus dollars will enable the corps to undertake and complete many projects much sooner than anticipated. Were it not for the special allocation, the projects already identified would have waited—possibly for many years–for funding approval through the corps’ regular annual budget.

One project that was absent from the funding list was a $22 million renovation of New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam below Augusta. The obsolete facility is awaiting repairs and installation of a fish passage structure before it can be turned over to local governments to operate and maintain.

Mr. Birdwell said the New Savannah Bluff project was not suitable for an allocation of stimulus dollars.

“Part of it has to do with how fast projects can be done,” he said. “These contracts have to be awarded and completed in a certain time period and that one would have taken too long.”

The corps will make every effort to announce and initiate the projects as soon as possible to provide maximum economic benefit and job creation.

Tuesday’s announcement provides the corps with authorization to draw upon the funds from the U.S. Treasury, Mr. Birdwell said. “So we will be announcing the jobs and contracts as soon as possible.”


Projects and allocations:

• Monitor spawning of endangered shortnose sturgeon in the Savannah River to determine if flow discharges can be reduced to conserve water during drought, $30,000.

• Assessment of cleanup needs and initial cleanup at Lake Springs airstrip, where DDT has contaminated soil; perform forestry improvements on roads; and implement invasive species control plan, $735,000.

• Pave roads in recreation areas, improve accessibility, renovate campsites, replace two comfort stations. Campsite renovations will bring sites up to current Corps facility standards, $3,028,000

• Hire seven summer park rangers, two temporary forestry technicians and one administrative assistant to help improve visitor assistance programs and patrols, $400,000.

• Install water quality monitors on the Savannah River to determine conditions under which project flow discharges could be reduced to conserve water during the drought, $50,000 .

• Install county water at Lake Springs Day Use Area and Ridge Road Campground, $835,000

• Perform corrosion protection and weld repair on spillway gates to reduce the risk of gate failure, $4.5 million.

• Powerhouse improvements include dioxide fire suppression system, $1.5; asbestos replacement, $2.9 million; and busswork replacement, $2.5 million.

TOTAL: $16,478,000



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