We live on a big river but get little out of it. Other cities have developed their urban waterfront – in our case from 13th Street to Fifth Street – but not us. We might as well be living in the countryside. The reasons we have not taken advantage of our greatest natural resource are lack of vision and fear.
The levee remains in place supposedly to protect Augusta from flooding, but this fear has no foundation in fact. The U.S. Geological Survey has been keeping track of Savannah River levels since the 1700s, and while it is true that Augusta regularly flooded in the past, when the first upstream dam was completed in the 1950s water levels have consistently been much lower. I suggest anyone with a differing view look at the data.
I’ve lived here for 40 years. The only “flood” we had didn’t even come close to the base of our levee. There are now five upstream dams, and river levels have never been lower. The large pools created by these dams increase evaporative and seepage loss, and reduce the flow.
Maybe you’ve noticed there doesn’t seem to be a levee on the South Carolina side of the river. The U.S. Corps of Engineers has told those people they are not going to flood, and the foundations of those buildings are lower than the base of our levee.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could have restaurants, shops, water taxis, theaters, performing arts centers, farmer markets, hotels, etc., right on the Savannah River instead of being behind a pile of dirt like we have now? Think of the implications for tourist dollars. San Antonio attracts 9 million visitors each year to its Riverwalk; they don’t seem to be having economic problems like we do. If you include the land from the Reynolds Street side of the levee to the river, there is more square-footage than between Reynolds and Broad streets. At the moment the city receives no tax dollars from this prime property.
Wouldn’t you like to have dinner right on the Savannah River? I would. Why not contact your Augusta Commission representative and the mayor? Let’s get this ball rolling.