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Augusta Commissioner Mason makes lowering levee a key plank in mayoral platform

Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013 6:41 PM
Last updated Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 5:27 AM
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With local elections likely just four months away, Augusta mayoral candidates are getting busy. One of them, Augusta Commissioner Alvin Mason, has made restoring downtown access to the river a priority.

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The levee and Augusta's riverfront  File
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The levee and Augusta's riverfront

That’s point No. 2 in Mason’s “10-Point Advocacy Plan,” which calls for enhancing downtown development by dropping the 93-year-old levee by about 18 feet, to 140 feet above sea level.

Asked to elaborate, Mason said lowering about a mile of levee between 13th and Fifth streets and extending Augusta Common to the river would make Augusta’s riverfront a more accessible destination.

Currently, “all of the activities that occur on the riverfront are out of view, due to the elevation difference,” Mason said.

The proposal won’t disturb the ambiance of Riverwalk Augusta and will bring more events to the Augus­ta Convention Center and more visitors downtown, he said.

The idea of lowering the levee has been debated by engineers, developers and the public for years. Since 1910, the 12-mile earthen levee has protected the city against rising water levels, though there is no corresponding structure across the river in North Augusta, whose heavily developed riverfront can be seen from atop the levee.

Most supporters say the levee does little to protect Augusta’s downtown since construction of Thurmond Dam upstream in 1940 and wouldn’t save the city in a catastrophic dam failure. However, the Army Corps of Engineers, which flunked the levee in a 2011 inspection, cites the 1,700 square miles of watershed between Thurmond Dam and the city as an added level of protection.

Corps spokesman Billy Birdwell has said removing the levee will also affect flood insurance programs and alter flood maps.

Mason said he believes obtaining corps approval for lowering the levee is possible, provided the corps wasn’t asked to pay for the project.

The two-term Augusta commissioner’s platform also includes increasing south Augusta development, creating a college entertainment district and enhancing compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mason’s rivals for mayor are Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta; businessman Charles Cummings; and businesswoman Helen Blocker-Adams.

Davis’ campaign did not respond to a request for his platform, which isn’t posted online. He is forbidden by law from campaigning during his final legislative session, and he recently urged supporters to get their contributions to him by Jan. 12.

Blocker-Adams released a platform Friday that includes capitalizing on the arrival of the Army Cyber Command at Fort Gordon, reducing crime and improving education and public health.

Commissioner Mary Davis, who considered a run for mayor, said Friday that she was not running. City Admin­is­trator Fred Russell, widely rumored to be considering the post despite his firing by the commission, declined to comment on the speculation.

The election will be much earlier than usual. Typically held in November, a state law enacted by the Republican-dominated Legislature moved the nonpartisan race to the date of the general primary.

Most election observers expect the Legislature to move the date even earlier, to May 20, with qualifying the week of March 3, to coincide with federal elections and avoid the cost of additional elections.

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Little Lamb
46870
Points
Little Lamb 12/29/13 - 10:19 pm
7
8
Ay, Yah Yah, Yah Yay . . .

Talk about a meaningless windmill to tilt at, this gambit shows the paucity, the poverty of Mason's platform and his lack of vision for the entire county. The levee is a great historical monument akin to the Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China. Let it stand, strong!

We Augustans need potholes fixed promptly, re-pavings done on schedule, weeds and grasses on city right of ways kept clear, criminals chased out of town, and government treasuries not dribbled out to the developer du jour for crony "public/private partnerships". It's time to get back to the basics of good government.

mosovich
826
Points
mosovich 12/29/13 - 09:37 pm
11
3
To funny..

I agree, how about getting the city financially and soundly on it's feet vs. spending all this cash to haul away a bunch of dirt.. Augusta needs so many improvements county wide it's unreal.. Schools, roads, just basic infrastructure..

Riverman1
86818
Points
Riverman1 12/29/13 - 10:07 pm
9
7
I Like It

Sissy Albert and I had thousands of bumper stickers made saying "Tear Down This Levee, Mr. Copenhaver." I'm pretty sure it was Brad who stopped me one day at a stoplight on Stevens Creek Rd. wanting one. Alvin Mason using this as a plank in his platform is being original and inspirational. This is the kind of thing that gets my attention in a good way.

Little Lamb
46870
Points
Little Lamb 12/29/13 - 10:28 pm
6
7
Tunnel Vision

Mason's vision is not well thought out. Here is what he told Susan McCord:

Mason said lowering about a mile of levee between 13th and Fifth streets and extending Augusta Common to the river would make Augusta’s riverfront a more accessible destination.

Well, what would that do to the properties at the Riverfront Properties at 13th & Reynolds Sts. (where Lowell Greenbaum's home is), Morris Art Museum, Marriott Hotel, and Port Royal? They would be seriously disrupted. Has Alvin (don't you mess with me, momma) Mason calculated even a preliminary cost estimate of such an engineering feat? It will be tens of millions, perhaps extending to a hundred million or more.

Riverman1
86818
Points
Riverman1 12/29/13 - 10:45 pm
6
4
LL, It Would be Kept In Those Places

The premise of lowering the levee was to keep it where the things you mentioned are located. No one is going to tear down hotels.

Little Lamb
46870
Points
Little Lamb 12/29/13 - 10:54 pm
7
5
From John Grisham — — Stupid, Stupid, Stupid

As reported by Ace Reporter Susan McCord, here is a false statement from Alvin Mason:

Currently, “all of the activities that occur on the riverfront are out of view, due to the elevation difference,” Mason said.

Mason's statement is patently false. If you are standing on the levee, or you are standing or seated on the river side of the levee, the activities that occur on the riverfront are laid out in view of you in a beautiful panorama. I call your bluff, Alvin!

oldredneckman96
5115
Points
oldredneckman96 12/29/13 - 10:58 pm
6
5
Simple
Unpublished

Here it is. There are enough criminals in the CSRA to do the labor. Put the dirt from the levey in the pot holes. There is not enough dirt in the levey to finish the job but it will be a start.

corgimom
33965
Points
corgimom 12/29/13 - 11:29 pm
5
6
They can lower the levee so

They can lower the levee so that the cockroaches on the Roach Walk won't have to climb as high.

Navy Gary
1615
Points
Navy Gary 12/29/13 - 11:34 pm
9
4
I think that...

First of all, Alvin Mason will NEVER be elected mayor of Augusta.

Secondly, I think that the levee was built at the current height for a reason. What if there were a dam breach, unusually high rains/flooding or anything untowards to happen?

These Augusta politicians need to be barred from the press altogether. Every idea they come up with is so lame it's just embarrassing for the whole city.

Little Lamb
46870
Points
Little Lamb 12/29/13 - 11:40 pm
1
6
Lock and Dam

You'd get a lot bigger payoff tearing down that hideous Lock and Dam down at the airport.

Let the River run wild!

Riverman1
86818
Points
Riverman1 12/29/13 - 11:55 pm
7
3
The levee was built before

The levee was built before Thurmond Dam. Sure there used to be a reason for it, but not now. Barry Paschal and others wrote extensively on the subject.

Navy Gary
1615
Points
Navy Gary 12/29/13 - 11:56 pm
7
3
Here is what the Corps of Engineers says about the levee

The combined governments of the City of Augusta and Richmond County are responsible for operating and maintaining the flood control project. The levee and appurtenant features were inspected on 23 through 25 March 2010. Multiple significant deficiencies were noted, most of which are ongoing from previous inspections, and remedial actions have not been initiated.

The main system deficiencies are:

 Although a majority of the levee contains desirable vegetation, significant portions of the embankment contain undesirable vegetation, i.e. vegetation that prohibits a proper inspection and vegetation that can affect the integrity of the levee. Vegetation deficiencies were noted in the December 2008 inspection, but few have been addressed. Many are on-going deficiencies listed in numerous inspection reports.

Numerous encroachments have been identified during this inspection and previous annual inspections, mainly in the downtown area. Encroachments include buildings, billboard posts, numerous Riverwalk features, utilities, etc., that have been constructed on the levee or levee toe.

 Other deficiencies include flood wall drain holes that are blocked, scour/erosion and low spots at water control structures, and several interior drainage flapgates that are in disrepair and possibly inoperable.
The overall system rating for the Augusta City Levee is “Unacceptable.”

Individual items rated as unacceptable deficiencies in previous inspections have not been corrected within the timeline set by the October 2008 Inspection Report. The City/County was requested in October 2008 to provide a proposed plan for correcting deficiencies,
particularly vegetation. The plan was requested within 90 days of receipt of the inspection report. To date, Savannah District has not received a proposed plan to correct vegetation encroachments or any other deficiencies. Additionally, vegetative deficiencies listed as unacceptable in the last report were identified as needing to be corrected within one year from the date of the report. The listed deficiencies noted in the last report have not been corrected as of this inspection.

Riverman1
86818
Points
Riverman1 12/30/13 - 12:09 am
10
2
NavyGary, so what should we do?

NavyGary, so what should we do? Spend a fortune repairing a levee that's no long needed?

You have to understand that those of us proposing removing most of the levee have been here a long time and understand the intricacies of the river and potential flooding. The flood of 1990 was said to be a 200 year flood. The river did not come up that high on the levee. But most agree to leaving it at about 8-10 ft. high. The flooding in Augusta did not come from the river. It came from rain in town and the canal. Keep in mind the North Augusta side has no levee.

If Thurmond Dam breaks we will have a major problem no doubt. Such a scenario is catastrophic, but other dams don't require levees downstream. Why should Thurmond?

dichotomy
34335
Points
dichotomy 12/30/13 - 12:19 am
8
2
Does Alvin "Skybox" Mason

Does Alvin "Skybox" Mason have a platform that details how he is going pay for lowering the levee and extending the Commons? Is Alvin going to break us with another DOWNTOWN project paid for with MORE long term bonds that will crush us with increased property taxes. Having a "platform" is NOT the same as having a PLAN. My guess is that Alvin does not have a plan as to how to pay for his "platform".

Every candidate who runs for office should be required to provide a detailed plan as to how they will PAY....out of the existing budget.....for every plank in their platform.

Keep asking Alvin......where's the beef. What are you going to give up to pay for lowering the levee and extending the Commons without raising taxes or adding more long term debt? C'mon Skybox....give us the PLAN.

Navy Gary
1615
Points
Navy Gary 12/30/13 - 12:36 am
6
2
Riverman...

It may be needed at some point in the future if anything bad happens. You never know; global warming, rising ocean levels....anything can happen...

Murphys Law: What can go wrong will go wrong and usually at the most inopportune time...Just sayin'....

Also, since it was put there for a purpose, it should've been maintained all along to support that purpose. I think that if it was really an obsolete levee and not needed anymore, the Corps of Engineers wouldn't even bother inspecting it.

gargoyle
18518
Points
gargoyle 12/30/13 - 12:41 am
7
2
A levee project could be

A levee project could be talked about if the county was running a surplus. As it is we got to pay off the TEE center a jazz club and all the other boondoggles our so called leadership has set up instead of maintaining what they should . Has it is we got to go for a slum loan to finish the court house and cut all budgets just to get by. Prudent people would be concentrating on infrastructure and getting the rest of the county ready to draw in investment from the private sector, you know growing the tax base instead of putting all the eggs in one basket by concentrating on four square mile projects.

GACopprhed
2136
Points
GACopprhed 12/30/13 - 05:53 am
4
5
Riverman1, obviously you
Unpublished

Riverman1, obviously you don't or didn't live downtown during Hugo. I did, and witnessed the rise and flood of Riverwalk and downtown. Not needed? What's truly hilarious, is this article right next to a picture of a FLOODED Jesse Norman Amphitheater and Riverman saying "it's not needed." BRILLIANT!

nocnoc
44760
Points
nocnoc 12/30/13 - 07:30 am
4
4
The error of my negative thinking was pointed out

about lowering the levee has possible positive side effects and repercussions.

Maybe any one of the floods we have had in the last 40 years AFTER the dam built would have completely flushed out DOWNTOWN.

SOME EXAMPLES
Couldn't find pictures for all of the floods since the dam was built for some reason?

2013
http://aug-cdn.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/story_slideshow_thumb/...

1994
http://aug-cdn.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/slideshows-wide/1994Fl...

1992
http://aug-cdn.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/slideshows-wide/1992Fl...

1990
http://aug-cdn.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/superphoto/editorial/i...

1987
http://aug-cdn.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/slideshows-wide/1984Fl...

1984
http://aug-cdn.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/slideshows-wide/1984Fl...

1975
http://aug-cdn.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/slideshows-wide/1975Fl...

1971 (Jay Mann Ch 6)
http://aug-cdn.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/slideshows-wide/1971Fl...

1970
http://aug-cdn.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/slideshows-wide/1970Fl...

1964
http://aug-cdn.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/slideshows-wide/1964Fl...

1957
http://aug-cdn.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/slideshows-wide/1957Fl...
Think of all the problems Richmond co. Taxpayers would be spared?

Even if it costs 1 time a $100 million to fix DOWNTOWN from the ground up instead of all the Revitalization's and stupid "We need to revamp, tweak, build, or make overs maybe Richmond Co. Taxpayers would be better off.

BTW: Ever notice those projects never cost would we were told, just miss that elusive target of fixing the problem after $million$ after $million$ are spend spent with little of no results.

Maybe lowering the Levee to below common flood stage really is a good idea?

Seriously I could support it,
besides I am moving in <86 days and any Levee tax dreamed up and levied will be the concern of those fewer and fewer taxpayers still in GIVE ME What you still got South Side, Augusta.

Really y'all don't think the Levee removal would be
free do y'all?

Dixieman
15900
Points
Dixieman 12/30/13 - 08:05 am
5
1
Alternatively...

...he could use his telekinetic powers and magic wand to raise the river.
Dumbest idea I have heard in a long time -- and that's saying a lot for Augusta politicians.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
9040
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 12/30/13 - 08:46 am
3
4
Mason - Obama

Like Obama, Mason hasn't considered the unintended consequenses of removing the levee. How will it affect the flood plain, and what effect will it have on flood insurance rates for the residents of Old Town and the East Augusta area? How will these people afford a $2000.00 per year flood insurance policy? I think I'd dig a little deeper, before I start digging away at the levee!!

justthefacts
22680
Points
justthefacts 12/30/13 - 08:48 am
0
0
*

*

nocnoc
44760
Points
nocnoc 12/30/13 - 09:20 am
4
1
Maybe the idea is to lower the LEVEE

and the City to sell the RIVER FRONT to a few preselected developers?

hey, If the Levee is lowered or removed and the land is sold.
Maybe holding a LAND LOTTERY with ONLY TAXPAYERS getting a number and the winners then can sell their land (IF THEY WANT TO) to the developers.

This way the TAXPAYER win and the city get a new TAX digest area.

Little Lamb
46870
Points
Little Lamb 12/30/13 - 09:16 am
3
2
Don't Worry

Thank you, Navy Gary, for posting excerpts from that Corps of Engineers report. It is a tiny glimpse into the work ethic of Fred (What, me worry?) Russell. Let's look at items from the report and ponder them:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

 Other deficiencies include —

1. Flood wall drain holes that are blocked,

2. Scour/erosion and low spots at water control structures,

3. Several interior drainage flapgates that are in disrepair and possibly inoperable.

The overall system rating for the Augusta City Levee is “Unacceptable.”

Individual items rated as unacceptable deficiencies in previous inspections have not been corrected within the timeline set by the October 2008 Inspection Report.

The City/County was requested in October 2008 to provide a proposed plan for correcting deficiencies, particularly vegetation. The plan was requested within 90 days of receipt of the inspection report. To date, Savannah District has not received a proposed plan to correct vegetation encroachments or any other deficiencies.

Additionally, vegetative deficiencies listed as unacceptable in the last report were identified as needing to be corrected within one year from the date of the report. The listed deficiencies noted in the last report have not been corrected as of this inspection.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It is a good thing Fred Russell did not sire children. He would have set a miserable example for them.

nocnoc
44760
Points
nocnoc 12/30/13 - 09:24 am
5
2
LL - If the Corp Of Enginners pointed out all these problems.

I have to ask.

Doesn't that mean they see a viable NEED for the Levee?
Why else would they say it needs upgrades and repairs?

nocnoc
44760
Points
nocnoc 12/30/13 - 09:29 am
4
1
BTW: did any one else note

my tossed together post of all the floods?
Since the 50's floods seem to run in 5 to 7 year cycles since the dam was filled?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 12/30/13 - 09:45 am
4
1
If they can't coordinate

If they can't coordinate someone to go down and fix some light bulbs and trim the hedges, how are they going to get someone to go down there and close the bulkhead during a flood? I see no real protection gained from having the levee there. I conversely don't see any realistic funding in order for the job of removing it. Stalemate.

seenitB4
90642
Points
seenitB4 12/30/13 - 09:57 am
4
2
Someone please tell me

What is this mind bending wonderful event/happenings on the river that we are prevented from seeing....huh....I'm not a believer.....maybe river can fill in the blanks...what is going on that we HAVE TO SEE??

I see this as another prop to promote downtown & & let the county go fly a kite.

Little Lamb
46870
Points
Little Lamb 12/30/13 - 09:58 am
3
2
History

Whether there is protection or not, the levee is an important part of Augusta's history. It has aesthetic value. If you can't put up a chain link fence in Summerville because of historical significance, then you should not be allowed to destroy an historical levee!

Also, the river side of the levee has been adorned with attractive plantings, sculptures, and other nice features. It is an enjoyable walk whether you use the upper or the lower walkway down at Riverwalk.

Let's have a séance and ask Ed McIntyre and Charles Devaney whether they want the levee torn down.

Riverman1
86818
Points
Riverman1 12/30/13 - 10:06 am
3
0
Recent Flooding Has Not Come From River

Folks, realize the levee was constructed 88 years ago before Clark Hill. Let me give you a few things to think about. The river doesn’t go up higher on the Augusta side than the North Augusta side and they seem to do okay. Can it go up some, certainly, but not nearly high as the levee. We are not opposed to leaving a few feet of levee.

Nocnoc had some great photos of past flooding, but realize that water did not come from over the river levee. That was from rain in the city and from flooding over the canal which is a totally different situation.

The photo that shows the Jesse Norman stage inundated proves how far down the levee the river actually was when we considered the water as being high in the city. What those of us who have advocated removing the levee know is it’s a fishbowl effect caused by the levee actually keeping water inside the city from flowing out.

I was at University Hospital during the flood of 1990 which is the biggest food in recent memory. Univesity’s parking lot was the subject of many photos showing the top of cars barely visible. I had parked on the second floor of the parking garage for employees. None of that water was coming from the river. It was all from rain in the city and flowing over the top of the canal.

Here is a link from a story where Sister Albert and former State Senator Frank Albert discussed removing the levee.

http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2007/10/11/met_147067.shtml

Little Lamb
46870
Points
Little Lamb 12/30/13 - 09:59 am
3
1
BTW

Amen, Seenit.

And good morning.

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