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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presents their recommended plan for future of Lock and Dam

November 15, 2018

At a meeting with both South Carolina and Georgia residents Wednesday afternoon, the Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced their recommended plan for the replacement of the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, but the planning for that replacement is not set in stone yet, according to Col. Daniel Hibner.

The Corps of Engineers recommended plan, known as Alt. 2-6d, would construct a fixed weir with a dry floodplain bench on the Georgia side of the river.

Corps of Engineers officials went through all seven alternative plans they originally announced in June of this year, and the metrics used to come to a decision to ultimately recommend Alt. 2-6d.

Hibner said at the beginning of the meeting that Alt. 2-6d is only the plan the Corps of Engineers is recommending, not a final decision. The final report decision would come in June 2019, with design from October 2019 until September 2020, and construction beginning October 2020, according to a slide shown at the meeting.

The project is known as the SHEP Fish Passage project.

Project manager April Patterson laid out the six factors used to determine the best alternative – ability to pass fish, cost, navigation, water supply, recreation and flooding – as well as how each of those factors was evaluated. All of the alternative plans were graded on each of those six factors, and each factor received a score of 1, 0 or -1 for each plan.

The fixed weir with dry floodplain, Alt. 2-6d, tied with other projects, but was chosen based on it’s price, Patterson said. The construction cost for the plan is estimated at $68.9 million, with a lifetime cost of $73 million, according to a release on the project website.

Fish passage for endangered species, and more specifically the Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, is required by the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation (WIIN) Act. The WIIN Act also requires that the existing lock and dam be deauthorized and the pool be maintained. The recommended plan would require the existing lock and dam be removed.

Russell Wicke, corporate communications officer for the Corps of Engineers, said Alt. 2-6d would make the pool levels between 1 to 2 feet lower than it is currently with average flows.

During the meeting, Wicke outlined two tools residents can utilize to see the impact of the project on the shore. One is an online map where users can see the effects of the chosen project, as well as the other six alternatives, on the shore of the Savannah River at any location.

The other is a simulation in which, in January 2019, the Corps of Engineers will lower the river around half a foot every day for around a week, lowering it a total of 3 feet, and leaving it for a week so that residents on either side of the river can see the effects. Wicke said a 3-foot difference would only be in drought conditions, though.

After the presentation, residents expressed concerns and asked questions about the project, including why the water would need to be lowered at all, what the effect would be during the two-year construction process and what the effect of the project would be on the current docks on the river.

The timeline presented during the meeting showed that a draft report would be created between November 2018 and January 2019. In February 2019, citizens and residents will be able to submit comments on the draft.

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