Augusta's river levee cited for deficiencies

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Augusta's 91-year-old levee flunked its latest inspection by the Army Corps of Engineers, which has sent the city a list of improvements needed to reinstate the structure's "acceptable" status under federal flood prevention programs.

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The Army Corps of Engineers says Augusta's Waters Edge neighborhood near Reynolds Street in Augusta will "hamper the corps' ability to work on the levee should there be a 1,000-year flood event."   Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
The Army Corps of Engineers says Augusta's Waters Edge neighborhood near Reynolds Street in Augusta will "hamper the corps' ability to work on the levee should there be a 1,000-year flood event."

In a letter dated Jan. 19 and sent to City Administrator Fred Russell, the corps said excessive vegetation, inoperable drainage gates and encroaching structures all require corrective action.

"Some of these same deficiencies and recommendations were identified in previous inspection reports," wrote Col. Jeffrey Hall, the corps' Savannah District commander, who noted the city was given one year to resolve vegetation issues identified in a 2008 inspection. "To date, we have not received your plan."

The deficiencies will be corrected, and the "unacceptable" rating is not likely to jeopardize the city's recently acquired accreditation for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Flood Insurance Program, said Karyn Nixon, the executive assistant to Mayor Deke Copenhaver, in an e-mailed statement Friday.

Corps officials agreed, saying that FEMA officials use a 100-year flood standard, while the corps and its inspection programs use a 1,000-year flood standard.

The 12-mile-long levee was built in 1919 and strengthened in the 1930s. The 1954 completion of Thurmond Lake 22 miles upstream from Augusta reduced the threat of floods, prompting interest many years later in developing the levee area. In 2007, a group unsuccessfully proposed removing it altogether, but later learned such a plan would require -- literally -- an act of Congress.

Hall's letter stated that several downtown structures were encroaching on the levee, and contends some of those encroachments were not submitted to corps officials for review.

The city's statement, however, said most structural encroachments cited by the corps, such as the Marriott hotel and Riverwalk improvements, were approved by the corps.

"Augusta will provide additional background documentation of these approvals that was not available to the corps inspectors at the time of their inspection," Nixon's statement said. "The city plans to repair the other minor deficiencies as necessary."

One deficiency, for which there is no apparent resolution, involves the Waters Edge housing development near Reynolds Street "which would hamper the corps' ability to work on the levee should there be a 1,000-year flood event," Nixon's statement said.

Augusta Levee deficiencies:
Undesirable vegetation on earth embankment, particularly on upper end, prevents proper inspections and could reduce its ability to repel floodwaters.

Structures downtown are encroaching on the structure, and some of those encroachments were not submitted for proper review.

Portions of the levee have blocked drain holes, erosion damage and inoperable drainage gates.

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers letter dated Jan. 19, 2011

LEVEE HISTORY

After severe floods in 1908 and 1912, the city and the federal government spent $2.2 million on a levee completed in 1918, but it broke in 1929 during Augusta's worst flood on record.

The levee was enlarged from 1936-40 with help from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Works Progress Administration.

The strengthened earthen levee stretches about 12 miles from the Augusta Canal headgates to Butler Creek.

In 1954, the corps finished Clarks Hill (later renamed Thurmond) Dam, which now controls the river's flow from Augusta to Savannah.

In the 1980s, former U.S. Rep. D. Douglas Barnard pushed through federal legislation allowing the breaches in the levee that made Riverwalk Augusta possible.

A group proposed removing the levee in 2007, saying the upstream dams gave the city ample flood protection, but the idea was never pursued.

Source: Augusta Chronicle archives, Army Corps of Engineers

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bill.waters
18
Points
bill.waters 01/28/11 - 03:13 pm
0
0
What sort of repairs will be

What sort of repairs will be necessary? Don't tell me that they are going to move all the structures built on and in front of the levee, such as the housing developments? Naaah...I suppose that was a "sweetheart" deal with the city/county. Please forgive my cynicism.

Clux99
0
Points
Clux99 01/28/11 - 03:23 pm
0
0
Now when they said

Now when they said 'structural encroachment' in the letter, does that mean that you can't build on or near the levee? Also, when they said 'undesirable vegetation' in the letter, does that mean that you can't plant anything (like ornamental trees, flower beds, etc.) on or near the levee? If so, then so much for 'revitalizing the riverfront'. I'm almost ready to join the 'tear down that levee!' bandwagon, time to contact my Congressman.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 01/28/11 - 03:35 pm
0
0
man, now we're gonna have to

man, now we're gonna have to go to levee inspection summer school. AGAIN.

Riverman1
82228
Points
Riverman1 01/28/11 - 04:01 pm
0
0
Bring er down!!! I have a

Bring er down!!!

I have a bumper sticker that says:

Mr. Copenhaver, Tear Down This Levee

follower
59
Points
follower 01/28/11 - 05:04 pm
0
0
I'm no engineer, but for

I'm no engineer, but for goodness sake, should the dam break, everything on the east side of the river will be flooded, and all of the water that runs eastward would be behind the levee anyway. The South Carolina side is already higher in elevation.

Can you imagine the amount of water that will come down the canal?, which of course, is behind the levee. In other words, the levee would then be nothing more than a 12 mile long, 50 foot wide, island. Pretty effective wouldn't you say?

Take the stupid thing down and develop the riverfront. If it takes an act of Congress, so be it. It can't be any more insane that some of the acts over the last few decades.

burninater
9396
Points
burninater 01/28/11 - 05:44 pm
0
0
So, as a person in the earth

So, as a person in the earth sciences trade, the first thing I thought when I saw the "South Carolina's waterfront" developments was "what the he** were they thinking? That's a flood terrace!" Good to know they're considering the Georgia side of the river, but I sure hope for those living on the SC side that whatever map magic was done to allow all those homes to get built there has also allowed them to get some good flood insurance ...

Riverman1
82228
Points
Riverman1 01/28/11 - 05:51 pm
0
0
Burn, relax. There's a dam up

Burn, relax. There's a dam up the river now.

agrit
178
Points
agrit 01/28/11 - 06:11 pm
0
0
Posted by Riverman: "Bring

Posted by Riverman:

"Bring er down!!!

I have a bumper sticker that says:

Mr. Copenhaver, Tear Down This Levee"

I have one of those bumper stickers too :-)

Hi RM how are you?

follower
59
Points
follower 01/28/11 - 06:55 pm
0
0
Burn, I agree with the houses

Burn, I agree with the houses next to The River golf club. But what about the area before the levee on the Ga. side? Wouldn't the water go eastward? And therefore, behind the levee, and flood downtown anyway?

Of course, that's IF the dam were to go.

usapatriot
0
Points
usapatriot 01/28/11 - 08:02 pm
0
0
Welcome to the web that is

Welcome to the web that is multi-layered govt bureacracy. It matters not what is on the SC side. There is a levy on the Augusta side and the Corps has to inspect levys, whether or not the levy makes sense.

It exists, therefore it will be inspected.

PS. If Augusta is considering removing the "excess vegetation, make sure to check with state and federal agencies:

Dept of Interior
EPA
Dept of Agriculture
Dept of Forestry
DNR
Parks and Recreation

Also, be sure to coordinate with SC.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
Points
Crime Reports and Rewards TV 01/28/11 - 09:00 pm
0
0
Shoo Can't tell you how close

Shoo Can't tell you how close i came to buying one of those Waters Edge homes.

"Mr. Copenhaver, Tear Down This Levee"
I also had that sticker too, but folks didn't understand that we only want the levee opened for access & the view at certain points not the entire thing removed.

Little Lamb
45282
Points
Little Lamb 01/28/11 - 09:54 pm
0
0
Crime Reports wrote: Folks

Crime Reports wrote:

Folks didn't understand that we only want the levee opened for access & the view at certain points not the entire thing removed.

Why only certain points? That sounds selfish. If you go to eighth street you can see that the levee has a breach at that "certain point." The levee is a beautiful historic monument. Leave it up. Any business that wants to present a river view to its patrons can do what the Morris Museum did, the Marriott did, and the Port Royal did. The levee is a non-problem, just as Queen Margaret's parking crisis is a non-problem.

Little Lamb
45282
Points
Little Lamb 01/28/11 - 09:59 pm
0
0
follower wrote: I'm no

follower wrote:

I'm no engineer, but for goodness sake, should the dam break, everything on the east side of the river will be flooded, and all of the water that runs eastward would be behind the levee anyway. The South Carolina side is already higher in elevation.

It's a good thing you are no engineer. South Carolina is the east side of the river. The canal is on the west side of the river! Of course, I may be misunderstanding what you mean by "behind the levee."

Riverman1
82228
Points
Riverman1 01/29/11 - 12:31 am
0
0
As long as we all understand

As long as we all understand the levee is only a "beautiful historical monument" maybe we can work from there.

Cadence
219
Points
Cadence 01/29/11 - 11:10 am
0
0
Please don't spend my hard

Please don't spend my hard earned tax dollars to tear down the levee. Just leave it alone. People have been trying to develop the downtown riverfront area for decades; I don't know why. No one wants to go down there! It is in a bad area, it is dangerous for a person alone, it is a white elephant that various groups keep pushing on us. Downtown is a nice historic spot that used to be the city of Augusta. No more. We live and play and work and worship in the west and south. Let it go and put more money into the bad schools and crime prevention. Sorry, I guess this was more of a rant than a contribution to the discussion.

Riverman1
82228
Points
Riverman1 01/29/11 - 11:20 am
0
0
SeenitB4, the article has an

SeenitB4, the article has an interesting line about the flood renewing interest in building a dam up the river.....which is exactly what was done twenty some years later.

seenitB4
85367
Points
seenitB4 01/29/11 - 11:23 am
0
0
riverman....It is interesting

riverman....It is interesting to me since my granddaddy swam the flooded river to get home to Augusta to be with my granmama.
(He was a cripple from polio but he still came across that river.)

follower
59
Points
follower 01/29/11 - 11:26 am
0
0
Little Lamb, you are correct.

Little Lamb, you are correct. I meant the opposite of what I wrote concerning the directions [dyslexia I guess]. But my question still remains; IF, and I know that's a big if, the dam were to break for whatever reason, wouldn't the water go behind the levee, on the Augusta side, entering through a long stretch of area north of the canal?

That the levee was constructed before Thurmond Dam, which now controls the flow of the river, is it now pointless? And while dumping all of Lake Thurmond at one time would be catastrophic, it's unlikely the levee would serve any purpose whatsoever to prevent downtown from flooding.

Clux99
0
Points
Clux99 01/29/11 - 12:39 pm
0
0
"The Army Corps of Engineers

"The Army Corps of Engineers says Augusta's Waters Edge neighborhood near Reynolds Street in Augusta will "hamper the corps' ability to work on the levee should there be a 1,000-year flood event."

And this is just now being cited as a problem? Aren't those houses at least 20 years old? Why wasn't anything brought up before they were built?

Also, like others have said, the levee was built before the dams were built upstream, meaning that having the levee and the dam is redundant. Anyway, if one of those dams is compromised, that levee isn't going to do anything except get washed away along with the rest of the city.

Riverman1
82228
Points
Riverman1 01/29/11 - 12:50 pm
0
0
Seenit said, "riverman....It

Seenit said, "riverman....It is interesting to me since my granddaddy swam the flooded river to get home to Augusta to be with my granmama."

Great story. It reminds me of that old song "Running Bear."

fd1962
26
Points
fd1962 01/29/11 - 12:55 pm
0
0
Is there supposed to be some
Unpublished

Is there supposed to be some significance to another inspection whose previous recommendations have been ignored and contained no enforceable penalties? Next topic.

seenitB4
85367
Points
seenitB4 01/29/11 - 12:58 pm
0
0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQ3XUM9gUG4

Funny that you said that since she was part Cherokee Indian. Beautiful woman btw.

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