Dam will be fixed as ladder is put up

Jorge Jiminez, the president of ZEL engineering, said a hole in the dam that was present when repairs were made in 2005 has not changed since then but that it will be repaired.

The city is waiting for a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a fish ladder that will allow shad -- and possibly short-nosed sturgeon -- to go upriver.

That permit could be issued in the next few months, he said.

Engineers reinspected the dam a week ago at the request of Commissioner Joe Bowles, who was concerned about former Commissioner Andy Cheek's assertions that the dam was in such bad shape it could fail.

Jiminez said the repairs made in 2005 have held.

"So, we felt comfortable in telling your director that we stand by the recommendation that you wait until you build the fish ladder, and at that point you can really take care of the whole thing," he said.

Cheek spoke to commissioners about his concerns over the dam's condition during the public comment section of a commission meeting a couple of months ago, warning them that if the dam failed it would cost millions of dollars to repair.

Augusta's assistant utilities director, Drew Goins, said that the dam and canal bank are inspected every year but that because of Cheek's comments it had been reinspected.

Jiminez assured commissioners that even if the diversion dam failed, causing the Augusta Canal to go dry, the pumping station on the river could pump 44 million gallons of water a day thanks to recent turbine upgrades.

The dam was built in 1875, and a fish ladder on the South Carolina side of the river, designed by the Chief of Fisheries of the U.S. was built in 1886, but it never passed any fish, Jiminez said.

In other action

- Commissioners voted 7-3 to authorize a Special Neighborhood Task Force for a 90-day trial run using one officer each from the sheriff's office, the marshal's department and code enforcement. Commissioner Joe Bowles, chairman of the subcommittee who worked on the task force idea, made a motion to have City Administrator Fred Russel confer further with Sheriff Ronnie Strength, Marshal Steve Smith and License and Inspection Director Rob Sherman and the information technology department to identify the areas to be targeted. Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason made a substitute motion for the 90-day trial. Mason's challenger for the District 4 commission seat, Sammie Sias, spoke in favor of the task force. Sias is also the former president of the Augusta Neighborhood Alliance, whose members showed up in force in support of the task force.

Voting against the task force were Commissioners Don Grantham, Matt Aitken and Jimmy Smith.

- Dr. Ricardo Azziz, the president of the Medical College of Georgia, spoke to commissioners about his vision for MCG and said he possibly would call on them in the future for street improvements to improve safety for the school's students.

- Without discussion, commissioners approved allowing five golf statues to remain at the Augusta Museum of History and one to be placed at the Augusta Regional Airport.

- Without discussion, commissioners approved allowing additional time, until Sept. 12, for the collection of the fees associated with the probation, suspension and revocation of the business licenses for Willie Brewer, d/b/a Sand Hill Grill, 2457 Wheeler Road; Joseph Cristie, d/b/a Munchies, 1149 Broad St.; and Satish Kalra, d/b/a/ Bombay Central Indian Cuisine, 3112 Washington Road, for failure to pay the Richmond County Health Department fee for services.

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