Originally created 01/12/00

Urge debate over lock and dam



With the drawdown of the river scheduled for later this month, I believe Augustans and our river neighbors need to be fully educated about the effects and options to deal with the Corps of Engineers' plans for the lock and dam. The city has too much at stake to let the Corps dictate how our riverfront will look in the future.

To evaluate the impact of decommissioning the dam, we need to combine the visual effect of the drawdown with oral recollections and photographs of the river before the structure was installed. ... Older residents recall a narrow and muddy river that would become more narrow and muddy in the summer due to the seasonal reduction in rainfall and the effects of drought, etc. At first glance this would seem to be disastrous to Riverwalk and the North Augusta shoreline development.

Before we categorize having no dam as disastrous, questions should be posed. For example, does the addition of Thurmond Dam change this picture of the river in 1930? Can water flow be regulated (and floods simulated) using the dam to create a steady flow around rocks, islands and trees (that would eventually grow back) much like the Savannah upstream and the James River through downtown Richmond, Va.? This would be a beautiful backdrop to the redevelopment of downtown. ...

Absent an attractive and practical result from letting the river run free, from a non-engineer's point of view the most viable alternative would be a variation of the existing dam. A masonry dam, similar to the diversion dam at the canal head gates, or the existing dam welded shut and reduced in height, would continue to provide the pool effect upstream, but would allow water flow over the top for downstream users. ...

While the effect of potential floods would need to be fully explored ... this type of structure has many benefits that should be part of the debate. ...

The drawdown is the start of a long discussion with the Corps and a valuable first step. We need to evaluate the effects with an open mind and pose and debate alternatives like the ones listed above so that we can control the future appearance and use of our river.

Cameron Nixon, Augusta