The New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam is located on the Savannah River near Augusta, Georgia. It was built nearly a century ago to boon barge traffic, and requires major rehabilitation to bring it up to safe standards. As it stands, the Lock & Dam is a deteriorating, unsafe structure which has caused injuries and even deaths over its history. If it continues to crumble, Augusta will be left on the hook for its repair. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is opting to remove this dam, replacing it with a structure or structures that will satisfy federal requirements and the needs of the local community.
Combining 2 Required Projects
- The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) mitigation agreements require the construction of a passage for migratory fish species such as sturgeon and shad, anadromous fish that have been unable to reach their historic spawning grounds since the dam was built in the early 20th century.
- The dam at New Savannah Bluff is in need of major repairs. Under federal law, the Corps of Engineers are required to replace the Lock & Dam structure in a way that maintains the current uses of the pool upstream: local navigation, recreation, and water supply.
Upon studying the mitigation requirements of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) in 2016, Savannah Riverkeeper recognized a tremendous opportunity. While funds for the required fish passage cannot be used to “rehabilitate” the lock and dam, one model could address both projects. Replacing the ailing dam structure with a system of rapids would be a cost-effective solution for facilitating fish passage and restoring the natural ecosystem. It would also offer recreation based economic opportunities for the local community such as whitewater attractions.
Savannah Riverkeeper and other stakeholders worked to ensure that the 2018 Water Resources and Development Act passed, containing the language necessary to for the Corps of Engineers to use SHEP funding designated only for the fish passage to also address rehabilitation of the Lock & Dam, and obligates them to do so in a way that maintains current water levels to protect the pool upstream.
Where We Are Now
Studies have since been completed to determine possible solutions for its future. The Corps released current alternatives in May 2018 and received public comments on the plan options. They are expected to reveal a narrowed scope of work in November 2018.
Meanwhile, Rock the Dam worked to get City of Augusta leaders on board to hire McLaughlin Whitewater Group, the world's leading whitewater design firm. They are now collaborating with the Corps and the local community to design a project that not only passes fish and protects the pool, but will also bring economic opportunity to South Augusta, and shift the way our River Region enjoys and interacts with this wonderful resource.