SC agency questions environmental value of fish bypass near Augusta

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COLUMBIA -- Despite a more elaborate sturgeon bypass proposed as part of the Savannah harbor expansion, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources remains worried about the potential effects on the endangered shortnose sturgeon.

In particular, the Palmetto State agency argues the $32 million fish bypass to be constructed across from Augusta isn’t an apples-to-apples remedy for habitat destruction resulting from the Georgia Ports Authority’s harbor expansion.

Last month the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final environmental impact statement on the $653 million harbor deepening project. Among the new details was a re-designed fish bypass -- with a quadrupled price tag -- intended to allow the shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon to migrate upstream.

But S.C. DNR environmental programs director Bob Perry says his agency’s objections remain -- that the proposed measures will open up new spawning habitat, but not estuarine habitat, which is the category that will be damaged.

“The deepening of the river is going to impact hundreds of acres of shortnose sturgeon estuarine habitat down in the lower part of the river where the ocean is meeting the river,” he said. “Normally, if it’s in-kind mitigation, you figure out how you mitigate where the impacts are. But you can’t create marsh. You can’t create new estuary. Only the good Lord can do that.”

In short, the South Carolina environmental official said: “It’s an oranges-to-apples remedy. We’re going to have oranges.”

But despite the DNR’s concerns, the redesigned bypass came about after the corps received guidance from federal officials.

“It will carry most of the river around the dam in most circumstances,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official David Berhart told the Savannah Morning News last month. “We have a lot more confidence it will be usable by sturgeon, both shortnose and Atlantic.”

Nevertheless, Perry said the increased environmental monitoring that was also proposed, along with the deluxe fish bypass, aren’t allaying the state agency’s fears. S.C. DNR will detail those among a slew of other concerns in its agency comments submitted to the corps by June 5.

Perry said the S.C. DNR knows about fish bypasses, thanks to working with utilities and their hydropower structures in the last dozen years.

“That’s really where our experience rests, because we’ve been involved in 25 hydropower projects in South Carolina,” said Perry.

“What we’ve learned is (that) it’s almost impossible to pass short nose sturgeon safely and effectively.”

Georgia is planning to deepen about 38 miles of the Savannah River and harbor from 42 feet to 47 feet in preparation for larger container vessels coming through the Panama Canal after its expansion in 2014.

Meanwhile, sturgeon may not be the only ones who are difficult to manipulate.

Perry also predicted the upgraded bypass could require an eminent domain taking action on the South Carolina property owners at the site of the bypass near the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam in Augusta.

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Little Lamb
49097
Points
Little Lamb 05/23/12 - 09:48 am
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0
Nay Sayer

It is so easy to criticise, but much harder to create. DHEC's Bob Perry talks about apples and oranges while poo-pooing the Corps’ sturgeon ladder, but you notice that Perry does not propose one single idea that addresses the issue.

DHEC has allowed coastal development that has destroyed or degraded millions of acres of marshland in South Carolina, and now they want to halt some minor dredging of silt from the Savannah River. By the way, much of the silt to be dredged out comes from upriver building of homes, shopping centers, churches, and roads. It would do no harm to dredge it out and allow the river to be as deep as it was in pre-settlement days.

Thethirdjq
214
Points
Thethirdjq 05/23/12 - 08:50 am
1
0
Yes you can.

"But you can’t create marsh. You can’t create new estuary. Only the good Lord can do that.”

We can create marshes and it has been done, tested, and studied. Just google constructed wetland.

resident
501
Points
resident 05/23/12 - 09:31 am
0
0
Overpriced

I would like to know why the price tag is so high! IT seems you put the word government or Corps of Engineers and all of the suddent the price is much much much much higher. Who fotts the bill the taxpayers do. How about actually making them get realistic prices, this is just like highway bridges they use cheap illegals to do the work even though there are supposed to be checks in place and then charge as if it is union work an just pocket the money. They even use outside contractors in most cases so the money does not benefit anyone when you figure out all of the intangibles such as illegals in chools with no tax benefit. This is a typical government lie when it comes to a project. I bet the cost is still only the $8 million and not the 32 they say it would cost. Seems to me there are some funny and illegal things here and I bet it can even be traced to local politicians.

Clean Water
11
Points
Clean Water 05/23/12 - 10:22 am
1
2
Let the Short Nose Sturgeon Live

I hope that they allow these fish bypasses to be built. All species deserve a chase to survive. Allow these fish to swim all the way up Savannah River. Let the Short Nose Stugeon Live. To comment on the dredging is another thing. There is more than silt in the sediment of the Savannah River. Industries have dumped tons of toxic chemicals into the Savannah River over the years. There is also a radioative legacy left in the sediment by the Nuclear Industry. The dredging of the Savannah River will hurt many marshes and effect water quality along the coast. This will cause untold harm to wild life as well as humans.
Whose idea is it to grade people's opinions? This is very negative. There are no grades in Augusta Chronicle next to articles. Is this done to discourage open dialect or to discourage different opinions?

Little Lamb
49097
Points
Little Lamb 05/23/12 - 10:56 am
1
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Trade-off

The way I understand it, Clean Water, is that the dredging and the fish ladder are a package deal. There will be no ladder if they don't dredge the harbor.

It's kind of like the deal whereby the cabal got the TEE Center in return for Hatney's non-profit housing organization getting some hotel-motel tax money.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 05/23/12 - 12:05 pm
1
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Packaged for sure. It also

Packaged for sure. It also includes raising some iron pieces of an antebellum watercraft. The bigger problem is that 3/4 of a billion is being spent to do "some minor dredging of silt" (right LL?). 750 mil and it will be over a billion spent in the end. To do what? Get into a price war with Charleston that we will lose again and again. Their harbor is better for harboring because it just is. Charleston harbor will be deeper, faster, and in a better place to outperform Savannah. Why not put a billion dollars into making the harbor more efficient. DO MORE WITH LESS if you dare. I bet we have 750 mil left to put toward making other operations more efficient, more green. Georgia is in a unique position to develop, utilize, and demonstrate ideas for alternative energy production. It's a new-fangled mindset but Georgia could lead the world by dedicating itself to see it through.

On the other hand, we could just pony up the billion and have 5 more feet of water at the bottom of the river, for a whopping 38 mile stretch anyway.

Little Lamb
49097
Points
Little Lamb 05/23/12 - 12:21 pm
1
0
Alternative

David Parker wrote:

Georgia is in a unique position to develop, utilize, and demonstrate ideas for alternative energy production.

I don't know what is so unique to Georgia. The laws of thermodynamics are pretty much the same worldwide. Georgia doesn't need any more Solyndras messing things up. The reason they call these projects "alternative energy" is because they all cost more than conventional energy.

Thethirdjq
214
Points
Thethirdjq 05/23/12 - 12:47 pm
1
0
Response to David Parker

Over the last decade, Savannah has been one of the fastest growing port's in the USA and is currently a better performing port compared to Charleston.

In regards to dollar value of goods in 2011, Savannah ranks 6th in the nation at 85 million dollars vs 8th ranked Charleston at 58 million dollars. That is more than 50% more value moving through Savannah.

How are we losing to Charleston?

The expansion of the port needs to be done to keep up with the growing size of ships that are coming through the Panama canal. Almost 300,000 jobs are somehow affected by the port of Savannah. Without the expansion, some of these jobs could disappear.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 05/23/12 - 01:13 pm
1
0
Either I'm wrong or right.

Either I'm wrong or right.

Savannah needs to spend a billion dollars to accomplish what Charleston is already at. Charleston I think is spending 30 mil to go a few more feet down (50ft) just b/c they can. I think we are losing b/c a billion dollars is alot of money and it's not money we are getting in profit, it's money we are going to be in arrears for. So currently, I whole-heartedly believe we are being outperformed by Charleston dahling.

LL, I wasn't referring to Solyndras. Not sure what one would look like if I came up on it either. I was pointing to the void that exists for a place like the great state of Georgia to fill with regard to the study and implementation of alternative energy ideas.

I think it comes down to some folks believing our state is the greatest in the Union and some not so much. It's uniqueness cannot be suggested, only experienced.

itsanotherday1
48335
Points
itsanotherday1 05/23/12 - 11:18 pm
0
0
85 million bucks??????

So, we are going to spend 10x that much to deepen the channel? That doesn't seem like a very good ROI to me.

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