Dam's removal would benefit river immensely

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It is time to think about the future of the Savannah River. It is time to visualize a restored river, a healthier river -- a river with more abundant fish and wildlife, and opportunities for more parks and additional fishing, boating, and other recreation.

We have a chance to improve the future of the Savannah River with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' proposal to dredge Savannah Harbor. While the dredging project comes with significant environmental harm to the harbor, the Corps would be required to mitigate this harm, investing in river restoration upstream.

As the recent Augusta Chronicle article by Rob Pavey explains ("New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam demolition reproposed," March 15) the National Marine Fisheries Service has told the Corps that it must mitigate for the damage dredging would do to clean water, wetlands and habitat for fish and wildlife -- specifically the endangered shortnose sturgeon. The NMFS maintains that if the Corps is going to dredge the harbor, it must remove New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, the first dam on the Savannah River near Augusta, about 185 miles upriver from the ocean.

WHILE THE CONSERVATION group American Rivers does not support the dredging project -- there are simply too many issues yet to be resolved -- we agree with the NMFS that dam removal is the only way to begin mitigating the impacts of dredging.

The Corps has proposed building a fishway at New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. But that isn't sufficient. Only total removal of the dam should be considered as mitigation because the Corps' fishway design simply won't work for sturgeon . Further, dam removal is cheaper when full costs of a properly designed fishway -- including overdue dam maintenance estimated to cost $22 million dollars -- and ongoing costs of operation and monitoring are considered.

MORE THAN 800 dams have been removed across the United States, and American Rivers anticipates the 1,000th dam will be removed this year. More and more communities are embracing the removal of dams that have outlived their usefulness. Even communities once opposed to dam removal have come to accept it, once they see the free-flowing river and new recreation, clean water, fish, wildlife and economic benefits it provides.

If the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam is removed, water users who draw from the impoundment still could have a reliable water supply. The intakes could be extended to the free-flowing river, or otherwise modified. Augusta's waterfront along the impoundment would be enhanced by the creation of additional green space and potential new parks and trails in the floodplain.

Many issues surrounding the harbor dredging still need to be resolved, but the NMFS is right to insist any mitigation plans should include removal of New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. The community should use this opportunity to visualize the possibilities, plan for the future and embrace the benefits that a healthier, free-flowing Savannah River would bring to future generations.

(The writer is the Southeast regional director of the conservation group American Rivers.)

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usapatriot
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usapatriot 03/20/11 - 12:41 am
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And do nothing and we still

And do nothing and we still have fresh water and fishing.

Do nothing and we save the money from dredging.

"While the dredging project comes with significant environmental harm to the harbor, the Corps would be required to mitigate this harm, investing in river restoration upstream."

When I read something like that, I get the feeling you have a positive financial stake in what's going on.

You know what Gerritt? If Savannah harbor needs dredging, let the port companies do it. No public funds. If it will be such a great economic bonanza, I'm sure that the port companies would be ready to invest in it.

If not, that's the way things go.

STOP ATTEMPTING TO PUT TAXPAYERS ON THE HOOK FOR YOUR PET PROJECTS.

omnomnom
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omnomnom 03/20/11 - 01:13 am
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totally usapatriot!!! and if

totally usapatriot!!! and if people need passable roads to get things from point A to point B, lets have the trucking companies bear the vast majority of the expenses. because the trickle down economy just ain't cutting it. wait. what?

Jane18
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Jane18 03/20/11 - 05:59 am
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It is not a feeling they have

It is not a feeling they have a positive financial stake in what's going on usapatriot. It's a absolute guaranteed one hundred percent for sure thing they do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 03/20/11 - 07:37 am
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Hear! Hear! USA Patriot

Hear! Hear! USA Patriot wrote:

If Savannah harbor needs dredging, let the port companies do it. No public funds. If it will be such a great economic bonanza, I'm sure that the port companies would be ready to invest in it.

Finally, someone who remembers what made America great — individual liberty, free enterprise, freedom of association, sanctity of contracts, and limited government.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 03/20/11 - 08:20 am
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I don't think I have a dog in

I don't think I have a dog in this fight other than taxpayer dollars but I think a little truth in advertising is in order. I don't know much about this subject but I do remember a while back when they opened the locks and let the river go down to it's natural level. If that is an example of what it would be like I think you might as well bulldoze the riverwalk. It was like a big mudhole and the mighty Savannah river was the Savannah creek that you could have stepped across if you could have gotten through the mud. Granted, this was probably a "drought" year but we have been having a lot of those lately. And I don't see how any water users could have an intake that could have gotten water out of that stream. All of that "additional green space" does no good if you need WATER. Organizations like American Rivers have an agenda, right or wrong, and that agenda is not necessarily what is good for the city of Augusta. Take all of this with a grain of salt and don't automatically let them use the short nosed sturgeon as an excuse to destroy Augusta's only useful attraction. The Lock and Dam has been there a long time and the short nosed sturgeon is stilll around and kicking and they will still be just fine even if they dredge a few miles of the lower Savannah. Don't let these organizations with narrowly focused agendas sway you on common sense decisions. They are not concerned with water customers, home owners, the Augusta Riverwalk, or any other human issue but they will use the short nosed sturgeon, who seems to be doing just fine, as an excuse to further their agenda.

dashiel
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dashiel 03/20/11 - 08:37 am
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Doing nothing has been the

Doing nothing has been the status quo for years now as our local government wishes to keep the locks but only if the feds pay for repairs and upkeep. What a difficult decision. Do we (taxpayers) prefer to (1) spend million$ on delaying an imaginary barge or a hypothetical sturgeon? Or (2) settle the matter permanently by blowing a useless obstruction away? Tough call.

Let's put our best minds on it immediately. Maybe they will commission a million-dollar study or devise a brilliant scheme to privatize it.

It's obvious that Mr. Jobsis has a special interest in this matter. If he and his ilk aren't stopped, they could turn the Savannah back into a river again. Let us cling instead to toilet bowls caked with history.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/20/11 - 09:09 am
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I've attended meetings with

I've attended meetings with the Corps of Engineers and experts from Clemson. USC, UGA and Ga Tech. The consensus was that shorelines have been created at the cost of hundred of millions of dollars over 75 years. That's the reality. We can not redraw shorelines in these modern times no more than we can redraw the course of the river. It is what it is.

The back pool from the Lock and Dam has grown over the years into a beautiful recreational "lake" used by the people of SC and GA. The huge investment of Riverwalk took advanatage of the back pool as did private enterprise.

Mr. Jobsis turns uncharacterstically interested in land values when he suggests new land would be created. What he neglects is that the land, parks, ramps and so on that would be made useless by moving the shoreline further out.

If tearing down dams is beneficial instead of maintaing our lakes, back pools and canals where do we stop? Is the Savannah Rapids Pavilion Dam next with the elimination of the Augusta Canal?

Aquatic1
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Aquatic1 03/21/11 - 01:27 pm
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"Toilet bowls caked with

"Toilet bowls caked with history..."

Truer words never spoken. I've been in that pond in July in SCUBA gear. It doesn't get any nastier.

Augusta is missing real opportunity here by clinging to the old. Many failing to so-so urban communities have been revitalized by putting real rivers back where they used to be.

Hot stagnant pools kind of lose their zing after the first visit, especially if you actually go in the water.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/21/11 - 01:39 pm
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I'm not sure where you get

I'm not sure where you get the idea the backpool of the river is stagnant. Huge volumes of water are released into it everyday. There may be periods of no flow, but sometime that day, Thurmond Dam will release. Realize nothing changes with the way Thurmond Dam periodically releases water even if the Lock and Dam is removed.

In addition, the bacteria level of the backpool is tested often and has always been within acceptable levels except on unusual occasions when it was noted in the Chronicle about sewer lines inadvertently dumping into the river. Lastly, the river is usually very clear unless there has been a run-off from rain.

Question: How does tearing down the Lock and Dam revitalize the community?

Aquatic1
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Aquatic1 03/21/11 - 02:38 pm
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The things growing on the

The things growing on the bottom (massive amounts of tiny tubifex and nematode worms) are the things you find in hot, dirty places with extended periods of no oxygen. Yes, Thurmond releases regularly, but the pond is shallow and dark-bottomed with piles of leaves and such -- it heats up really fast on a summer day, especially on the edges where the biology happens (good or bad). For 75% of the year, it might be okay, but June-August, it's a dead zone.

Bacteria counts don't tell the whole story, IOW.

Right now, you have what you have -- a big pool surrounded by cement and lawns -- not very captivating.

Flowing water with fish worth catching, natural plants, trail systems, kayaking and other float sports -- you can revitalize an area around these things. And the restaurant-goers will still have a view, a much nicer one, in fact.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/21/11 - 03:28 pm
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The fact is that the oxygen

The fact is that the oxygen content in that portion of the river is quite adequate. The lowest oxygen level is found right after Thurmond Dam in Columbia County before the Stevens Creek SC Power Dam and Savannah Rapids. That's why aerators were installed in Thurmond Dam. But below Augusta at Clyo, the oxgen content is at its highest of the entire river.

About leaves in the river, that's almost funny. Leaves are in any river anywhere there are trees. Do you want to cut them down?

As far as creating views, understand the levee is not going anywhere. That's what blocks the view now....an unneeded levee. Matter of fact, I have a bumper sticker on my truck that says: "Mr. Copenhaver, Tear Down This Levee."

You report the river feels hot in the summer. I don't doubt that, but the lake does too. There is great fishing and kayaking in the river now, by the way.

One last point about all this land that will be created with trails and what have you. The land belongs to landowners all the way to the high water mark. That's how the deeds are written. If the river is suddenly much smaller, the owners' land will increase substantially to the high water mark. That new land doesn't go to the government. You can't build things across private land.

Aquatic1
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Aquatic1 03/22/11 - 03:38 pm
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Clyo's quite a ways down from

Clyo's quite a ways down from New Savannah -- lots of time to agitate between those two places, and pick up oxygen from photosynthesis. You can't relate those two points relative to dissolved oxygen.

Actually, free-flowing rivers don't have a lot of leaves and other oxygen-consuming detritus in them, even right under the trees. Natural high flows keep this stuff moving on, as it should. Bring the levee down, and we'll have even less of this than we do now. The edges of the pond have a leaf-pack about 12-24 inches thick; very unnatural.

The Savannah used to peak flow at 250,000 cubic feet per second, now it's capped at 28,000 for Augusta flood protection.

Nonetheless, I don't live in Augusta and as much as I enjoy an occasional visit and care about the river, you and many others seem happy with the way it is, and so it shall be.

With government completely ineffective on every level, I don't think any of us really have anything to seriously consider -- port dredging, river dredging, dam removal, levee removal -- none of this will happen. But, enjoyed the debate just the same -- cheers.

AmRivers
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AmRivers 03/22/11 - 04:36 pm
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Gerrit Jobsis of American

Gerrit Jobsis of American Rivers sets the record straight at http://www.americanrivers.org/newsroom/blog/removing-a-dam-to-restore-th...

Read more about why American Rivers doesn't support the dredging project, and how the river and community would benefit from dam removal.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/22/11 - 07:45 pm
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Aquatic1, the flaw in the

Aquatic1, the flaw in the leaf argument is that lakes would be even more leaf filled if it were truly a problem. As far as Clyo, that's usually used as the first oxgen sampling point past Augusta due to all the industrial and water treatment plant waste. The oxygen content in the backpool we are talking about is the highest anywhere in the river because the water has just come over two dams and the shoals. It is much lower before the Stevens Creek Power Dam. Next question? By the way, I'm a member of Riverkeepers too.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/22/11 - 07:56 pm
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Here is the problem in a

Here is the problem in a nutshell. This was the point repeatedly made at the Savannah Rapids conference with the Corps and university experts. From Thurmond Dam all the way past the Lock and Dam, the river, including the canal has been altered for many decades. The shoreline and water level is set. Houses and what have you have grown up next to the river.

You can't take down Thurmond Dam, the Lock and Dam or any of the other dams without affecting the existing character of the river. They certainly all do have a purpose, just as the canal has a purpose today even if it is not what it was intended for. They give us plentiful water to enjoy and a shoreline that has been developed over the decades.

Bert Ellis
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Bert Ellis 03/22/11 - 09:33 pm
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Take down the dam and then

Take down the dam and then you can take the levee out. I, as a landowner below the Lock and Dam, wish we could remove the Lock and Dam. Every spring we live in fear of our property flooding due to the Fish Spawn regulations at Thurmond and other regulations involving fish below the dam.

Talking about the previous opening of locks and "draining" Lake Augusta, that was not a fair assessment. At the same time of opening the Lock and Dam, Thurmond all but STOPPED releases. To be fair, we should request a free flow lock and dam with continuous normal releases from Thurmond. I think people will be a little more understanding when that happens.

Have any of you responding ever seen flow data of the Savannah River prior to the Lock and Dam?? how about pictures of the mighty Savannah River prior to the Lock and Dam?? I have. And, my family grew up playing on the river. In the 20's my grandfather played ball in the river flats during a drought... but look at the flood level that soon hit Augusta after that. Look at data flow charts from 1900-1955, look at facts....

Let's get back to the true free flowing Savannah River, one that everyone can enjoy.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/22/11 - 09:44 pm
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If your reasoning for taking

If your reasoning for taking down the dam is removing the levee, you could do that now. Thurmond Dam controls flooding. Flooding levels would be the same, with or without the Lock and Dam. I don't understand your idea that the Savannah was a mighty river before the Lock and Dam was built. Thurmond Dam wasn't even there then. Goodness, I guess things have changed. Do you want to tear it down too in order to get back to the pre-Lock and Dam conditions?

It sounds like your property is too close to the water and you want flow from Thurmond decreased. That flow is dependent on producing hydroelectric power and flood control. What does any of that have to do with the Lock and Dam. Next question.

Bert Ellis
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Bert Ellis 03/23/11 - 10:27 am
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Do you research before

Do you research before typing? Are you from the area? Do you remember the the 90's floods, I guess the Corp forgot to manage the lake, when Augusta had to close off the levee?

Do you know about the flood of 2009/10?

Do you know where to look up flow data?

You said, "I don't understand your idea that the Savannah was a mighty river before the Lock and Dam was built. Thurmond Dam wasn't even there then." Are you saying the Savannah River was not a mighty river prior to Thurmond?

Bert Ellis
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Bert Ellis 03/23/11 - 10:29 am
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Oh, and I don't want flows

Oh, and I don't want flows from Thurmond to decrease. No where in the statement I eluded to that. And my property is well off the River.

Bert Ellis
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Bert Ellis 03/24/11 - 08:19 pm
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And flooding levels in, and

And flooding levels in, and below, Augusta ARE NOT the same with or without the Lock and Dam.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/24/11 - 08:39 pm
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Bert, seriously, I know the

Bert, seriously, I know the river well and all the data. In the flood of 1990, the levee created a fishbowl effect if anything and kept the water downtown. University Hospital's parking lot filled with water and it had nowhere to go.

You said the Savannah River was a mighty river before the Lock and Dam was constructed. I pointed out it certainly was because that was BEFORE Thurmond Dam when Augusta flooded often. You want it to do that again? Lastly, I have the COE site with Thurmond releases and levels all up and down the river on my DESKTOP.

Seriously, again. No one is going to allow the backpool to go away. No more than they will do away with the canal. The shoreline is a historic reality now.

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