New webpage on lock and dam fish passage now live

Nick Russ, a powerplant electrician for the U.S. Corps of Engineers Savannah District, assists in performing an inspection on one of the concrete piers of the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. Photo by Scott Hyatt

Nick Ruff, a power plant electrician for the U.S. Corps of Engineers Savannah District, assists in performing an inspection on one of the concrete piers of the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, May 14, 2014. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Scott Hyatt

If you’re interested in our plans for a fish passage near Augusta, Georgia, this post is for you.

We launched a webpage today on the future of the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, and the process to get there. The page includes information on the status of the old lock and dam, its connection to the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, and its requirement to mitigate for endangered fish.

District engineers continue to work on a number of possible alternatives to meet the intent of Congress as expressed in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. The recommended alternative will enable endangered sturgeon to pass upstream and make provisions to secure the pool for recreation and water supply to industry.

Our District officials will recommend a fish passage alternative in a draft report that will be released this coming winter for public review and comment, as indicated on a timeline included on the webpage. The winter release represents a timeline shift from a previous estimate of release in late summer. The delay is caused by a change in one of the model parameters after undergoing an agency technical review (ATR). The ATR is a quality control check performed by a working group of engineers within the Corps. The parameter adjustment required a re-run of the modeling for all the alternatives, as well as the calculations associated with the upstream water intakes. Once all of the data is completed, our engineers will reanalyze and verify the outputs.

We’re planning public-engagement events in the coming months to provide more details on the analysis of the fish passage. Information on these events will be announced on the new webpage.

The new webpage is: https://go.usa.gov/xQRwS

The harbor deepening will enable larger container ships to call on Savannah with greater ease, heavier cargoes and fewer tidal restraints than they currently experience. We partnered with the State of Georgia for the deepening, which is expected to bring a net benefit of $282 million each year to U.S. consumers in transportation cost savings and greater efficiencies. Each dollar invested in the SHEP will return $7.30 to the economy.

The SHEP involves significant environmental mitigation features; the fish passage at the Augusta lock and dam is one of those features. Many other mitigation features are nearing completion. These include a dissolved oxygen injection system that will supply oxygen to the harbor in hotter months, a raw water storage impoundment that will provide additional freshwater storage for the city of Savannah, and the remaining features of work on the flow re-routing of the Savannah River adjacent to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. Removal and relocation of the Civil War ironclad (CSS Georgia) and raising containment area dikes, wrapped up in the summer of 2017. Completion of the dissolved oxygen injection system and the raw water storage impoundment are expected this summer.

Thanks for reading.

~Russell Wicke, Corporate Communications Office

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April’s showers bring May’s … full pools

Reservoir levels for Hartwell May 2016-Present.

After a mediocre March, April’s showers emphatically raised the Savannah River Basin reservoirs back to full pool.

As of today, Hartwell and Thurmond are hovering at full pool, while Russell is less than half a foot below. The last time the reservoirs sat at full pool was almost exactly two years ago. (You can follow the abysmal journey on the graph above.)

Building on February’s above average rainfall, Hartwell once again led the sub-basins, posting 5.8 inches in April (compared to its 4.6 inch average). Thurmond and Russell collected 4.6 and 4.3 inches (versus their 3.6-inch averages), respectively.

The saturated ground from February’s above average rainfall, along with relatively cooler temperatures and lower levels of transpiration, helped April’s extra rainfall translate into runoff despite March’s sub-par numbers.

March is traditionally the wettest month for the basin.

The current 10-week projection has Hartwell and Thurmond remaining at full pool through Independence Day.

This month, water managers will strive to keep the reservoirs as flat as possible for spawning season, which began April 14.

Flat pools are critical for largemouth bass during the six-week period because if the pools drop too quickly the fish will abandon their nests and their eggs will be vulnerable to predators from the air; if the pools rise too quickly the deeper water provides larger fish easier access to their nests.

The water managers’ actions this month won’t materialize for another three years when the fish eggs have matured into adults.

But the fish can thank us later.

After two years of drought, we’re just happy for some extra rain.

~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office

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Tybee Island gets renourished

On Friday, contractors with Great Lakes Dock and Dredging Company wrapped up a $4.3 million beach renourishment project on Tybee Island.

The two-week project delivered approximately 250,000 cubic yards of sand to Tybee’s North Beach between Third and Gulick streets, according to Burt Moore, chief of dredging, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District.

Tybee Island normally receives beach renourishment every seven years but federal funding became available as a result of damage and erosion wrought by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

For more photos of the renourishment project, visit our Flickr site.

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The great outdoors is calling

Although the temperatures have been capricious to say the least in the past few weeks, now is the time to get outside. Continue reading

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Climatologists: Spring & summer could be warmer, drier than average

Experts from the Southeastern River Forecast Center released their Water Resources Outlook this week and it doesn’t exactly paint a rosy picture for the Savannah River Basin this summer. Continue reading

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Stepping into spring

The graph shows the monthly observed versus average rainfall for Hartwell Reservoir. Russell and Thurmond experienced similar “step-like” increases in rainfall since November 2017.

SAVANNAH, Ga. – For those watching the Savannah River Basin, last month’s precipitation was another step in the right direction. (Indeed, the data from the last few months seems to resemble a set of stairs, too.) Continue reading

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Corps completes deepening of Savannah harbor’s entrance channel

The Padre Island, a hopper dredge, shown filling its hopper with dredged material.

SAVANNAH, Ga. – In case you missed it, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, marked the end of deepening of the outer Savannah harbor last week. Only final touches remain in this $134 million project to deepen the entrance channel of the harbor and extend it an additional 7 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Continue reading

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The good, the bad, and the possible

The graph shows Lake Hartwell’s projected levels through April. The basin recently entered Drought Level I after rainfall pushed lake levels two feet above Drought Level 2.

Lake lovers got their Valentine’s Day gift last week from Mother Nature as Lake Hartwell pushed past its February rainfall average and the Savannah River Basin finally entered Drought Level 1. Continue reading

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The fate of Augusta’s lock and dam (and some history)

The New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam, looking downriver.

(Editor’s Note: This post, written by Savannah District Commander Col. Marvin Griffin, was published in the Augusta Chronicle Feb. 10.)

The fate of the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam has become a topic widely discussed in the past year. The issues surrounding the lock and dam are complex and deeply rooted in the past. Continue reading

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Cones are a Corps cash cow

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District harvested 7,500 bushels of pine cones at Fort Stewart in fiscal year 2017, generating about $80,000 in revenue. USACE photo by Rashida Banks.

There’s a saying that money doesn’t grow on trees, but foresters at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Forestry Resources Office at Fort Stewart, Georgia, may beg to differ. They generate thousands of dollars every year from something that grows on trees – pine cones. Continue reading

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