Despite poor grade, Augusta levee still protects

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Augusta’s 93-year-old levee is among many across the U.S. that earned a failing inspection grade from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In addition to encroachments from development, such as a parking area at Waters Edge subdivision, the corps also cited excessive vegetation, inoperable drainage gates and other deficiencies.

Although the city’s 12-mile-long levee is not perfect, it remains intact and operable as a means to protect Augusta against floods – even with breaches that were cut in the 1980s to allow the construction of the city’s Riverwalk.

To this day, large wooden beams, or “stop-gaps,” are stored near each levee breach and can be hoisted into place to repel water if rising water ever threatened the city.

More than 20 catastrophic floods surged through Augusta from the 1700s into the early 1900s. One of the worst occurred in 1908 and was the final straw for the city’s governing board.

That year, the river swelled wildly beyond its banks, knocking out bridges, pushing buildings from their foundations and leaving 18 people dead. Dozens of city blocks were destroyed.

The corps had recommended as early as 1870 that a levee or dam should be built to protect the city, but the idea wasn’t taken seriously until the deadly flood of 1908.

Plans to erect a levee to repel the river from downtown accelerated that year, and by 1911 - when another major spring flood sealed public opinion on the matter - a Canal & River Commission was formed to get the job done.

The levee gave Augustans a sense of security, and indeed it repelled its first flood soon after its completion in 1919. Similar surges flowed harmlessly past the city in 1921 and in spring 1929.

However, on Sept. 20, 1929 - just weeks before the stock market crash that fueled the Great Depression - the waters rose once again, and the levee was topped in several locations.

Despite a decade of work, more than 100 city blocks were flooded as the river surged to an estimated 38 times its average flow.

The city initiated steps in 1930 to enlarge and strengthen the levee. The project was completed in 1940.

Soon afterwards, the completion of Thurmond Dam upstream offered further protection to the city, and the levee was viewed by some as obsolete.

A group proposed removing the levee in 2007, saying the upstream dams gave the city ample flood protection, but the idea - which would require, literally, an act of Congress - was never formally pursued.

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OpenCurtain 01/18/13 - 09:04 am
That group that proposed removing the levee in 2007,

had better head down the River Walk Breech and look at the 1990's high water mark before they try to work out some selected profitable real estate deals.

Plus the Sandbar Ferry and East Boundary residents still remember the 1970's ..... 1990's floodings.

The AC just run Photo's yesterday. I saw Jay Mann (1970's WJBF News Anchor) paddling a Jon Boat in a project helping families during the 70 flooding).

BTW: When was the last time the 30+ year old large wooden beams, or “stop-gaps,” that are stored near each levee breach, INSPECTED?


Google has some great pictures also.

OpenCurtain 01/18/13 - 09:39 am
BTW: One last thing to think over

the 15 inches of rain that fell that Oct. in 1990 was BELOW the dam, the Augusta side of the dam.

plus Augusta's lower sections have flooded several times since the Dam was put in place.

This sounds almost like a trial/test balloon to see if some river front property can be sold and make the usual people some $$$$$.

soapy_725 01/18/13 - 09:24 am
The last time the wooden beams were

used in a "drill", the crane fell over and damaged the River Walk at the Radisson Hotel. The levee needs to be removed because it poses a flood threat to Hammond's Ferry. The levee would force massive amounts of water into the Hammond's Swamp or River Overflow as it was once called. That was before the Florida Swamp Management and Realtors Board approved the use of the swamp.

Tear down that levee Mr Boardman-Coperhaven.

CC said the 1990 floods were "The Hundred Year Floods" and revamped their maps to open up large wetlands for housing development. Aware of the Mayan Calendar, they figured what the heck. Or at least they would all be dead before lawsuit developed. Living in a swamp make the "Rain Tax" seem more rational. You are always in a flood zone.

David Parker
David Parker 01/18/13 - 09:55 am
i don't like it. OpenCurtain

i don't like it. OpenCurtain makes alot of sense about the potential for flooding. The city should have been built higher .

Riverman1 01/18/13 - 09:59 am
OC, I don't believe all the

OC, I don't believe all the rain fell below the dam although a lot of it did. The danger to Thurmond Dam was discussed after the 1990 flood when the lake was filled to critical levels. I have read the comments by Sissy Albert who headed a movement to remove the levee in the past and it makes sense to me. The high water mark in 1990 was into the amphitheater, I remember and that was an unusual amount of rain locally as you noted.

The fishbowl effect of the levee has been discussed in the past, too. Water wasn't able to get out of Augusta back into the river.

Clark Hill was built to prevent flooding from up river. Local rain may indeed flood downtown in various ways on both sides of the levee. The logical solution seems to be what Albert recommended, a drastically cut down levee to about 5 ft. That huge eyesore is simply not needed with Thurmond Dam.

itsanotherday1 01/18/13 - 10:45 am
Dittos to RM. This was

Dittos to RM. This was thoroughly hashed over years ago, nad consensus is the levee does more harm than good to downtown due to making it a bowl. If there were the unthinkable, a dam break, there would be no wall of water to rush over Augusta, drowning everyone. A lot would drain out into ColCo and the SC side before ever reaching downtown. The ColCo gov site used to have a map showing what areas would be inmpacted.

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