Originally created 02/09/00

Seek way to avoid more river disasters



As residents of the Riverside Plantation neighborhood near Beech Island, we witnessed the devastating effects of what is referred to as a "congressionally mandated experiment." The Corps of Engineers' drawdown of the river has left damage not only to personal property, but also to wildlife habitat. In a few short days, human decisions destroyed 60-plus years of nature's adaptation to the addition of the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.

Over the years, nature has changed the riverbed, banks and depths because of the construction of the dam. During the drawdown, what had been navigable water became sandbars and dangerously low water levels. Previously submerged debris was exposed. The riverbanks crumbled and became frightening mudslides. The news media warned river levels would drop five to six feet, so we felt cautiously safe since our dock was floating in what had previously been about 13 feet of water. What we saw was both amazing and appalling. Our dock was mired in mud and surrounded by the remains of the riverbanks, which collapsed. We were lucky. Other docks ... were destroyed.

The Corps of Engineers saw, and the news media reported, the washout at the Lock and Dam Park. This same destruction was seen on private property and in neighbors' yards when the water level dropped. ...

A Corps spokesperson said that if we live in a flood plain we should expect fluctuations due to nature. We do. We obtained all the necessary federal and state permits to construct our dock. We conformed to all requirements for flood plain construction of our home. We incurred enormous additional expense to enjoy this beautiful river in our back yard. We had subsoil analysis completed and based on that study hired a structural engineer to design the foundation of our home so it would withstand the possibility of high water.

We had pilings brought from Jacksonville and a pile driver from Savannah. The pilings were driven 25 feet deep and reinforced with cross bracing above ground. The house is elevated about 13 feet to accommodate the 100-year flood plain elevation. We did all we could structurally to protect ourselves from natural disasters. ...

We ask the federal, state and locally-elected officials, the Corps of Engineers and other relevant agencies to find a way to prevent a re-occurrence of this recent disaster.

Rose A. and Richard P. Abee, Jackson