Originally created 12/14/99

Test to demonstrate dam's absence



A brief drawdown of the Savannah River to demonstrate the impact of decommissioning the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam has been scheduled for the week of Jan. 16, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

The experiment, which will lower water levels six to seven feet and cause Georgia's shoreline to recede about 70 feet, is part of a federal study to determine whether the dam should be removed or abandoned.

"The test is basically for us to confirm our modeling of what we think will occur if the structure is deauthorized or the gates removed," said Corps spokesman Jim Parker.

The test, which involves opening the dam's spillway gates to gradually release water and lower the river upstream, will last only a few days before water levels will be returned to normal.

The New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam was built in 1937 to aid commercial shipping, which no longer exists on the river.

Federal law requires projects that no longer meet their authorized uses be transferred to new owners to avoid maintenance costs.

Augusta, North Augusta and the states of Georgia and South Carolina all have declined to adopt the dam -- citing excessive maintenance costs.

In the absence of a new owner, the only other option is to decommission the project, which would mean removing the dam's control gates and eliminating the deep channel upstream that provides riverwalk's lakelike pool.

The experimental drawdown will offer a glimpse of what the river would look like if the dam is decommissioned permanently.

"We know how low it will go, but we don't know what it looks like," Mr. Parker said. "This will give us a chance to see what happens."

The drawdown will also offer an opportunity to examine the back of the dam while the water is down to better assess the structure's condition.

The exercise initially was scheduled for Dec. 4-11, but was postponed because of concerns by local industries that use water from the river.

If the Corps later decides to make the drawdown permanent, major industries such as PCS, DSM, Kimberly-Clark and South Carolina's Electric & Gas Co.'s Urquhart plant could need permanent modifications on their water-intake equipment.

Mr. Parker said state and federal agencies and Congressional offices are being notified of the proposed date of the drawdown in case there are any additional concerns.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119.