Notion would break levee

Former Richmond County commissioner and state Sen. Frank Albert has a new mission - he wants Augusta to remove the 88-year-old levee built to keep floods at bay.

 

With three dams upstream, he says, it's no longer needed and Augusta should be able to see its riverfront again - just like North Augusta.

He and his wife, Sister Albert, are even getting bumper stickers.

"We're getting a bunch of them printed up," Mrs. Albert said. "I'm going to take them downtown to some of the bars and maybe stick them on boarded-up buildings."

The wording: "Mr. Copenhaver, Tear Down the Levee."

The idea, Mrs. Albert said, is to at least get people talking about a concept that might seem far-fetched but could also be a turning point in Augusta's evolution.

The levee, completed in 1919, was designed to repel floods. But today, with the protection offered by Thurmond, Russell and Hartwell dams upstream, the levee is obsolete, she said.

Mr. Albert noted that all the talk about a canal on Ellis Street shows how interested the city is in a water feature.

Removing the levee, he said, would reconnect the city to its river, and to North Augusta's fast-growing riverfront.

"If it's a good idea to spend $50 million to put a ditch on Ellis Street, then this might be a good idea, too," Mr. Albert said.

Removing the levee, however, would take an act of Congress - literally, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, which holds jurisdiction over the earthen structure.

"Even though dams upstream provide flood protection for Augusta, there are still 1,700 square miles of watershed between Thurmond Dam and the city," said corps spokesman Billy Birdwell.

Removing the levee, he said, would affect flood-insurance programs and alter flood maps, which could make it harder for some property owners to get flood insurance.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.