Editor’s Note: This post was written by Brian E. McCallum, Assistant Director with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Georgia Water Science Center. In this post, McCallum explains the USGS role in working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to perform river monitoring in support of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP).
The USGS has been requested by the Corps’ Savannah District to install and operate a hydrologic and water-quality monitoring network within the Savannah River estuary in support of SHEP.
The intent of the SHEP is to deepen the shipping channel by 5 feet to a new authorized depth of 47 feet, allowing larger container ships to use the Port of Savannah.
The primary environmental concern associated with the project is the potential for increased salinity encroachment, which may damage fragile ecosystems and decrease the dissolved oxygen levels within the Savannah River.
After years of field studies by a diverse group of federal, state, and local stakeholders, the Corps, along with its agency partners, developed a vast monitoring network to ensure the project functions as intended. The USGS is responsible for installing and maintaining a network of surface-water sites that will be the primary indicators of change in the estuary.
The SHEP hydrologic and water-quality monitoring network involves installing five new stations with tidal discharge and continuous water-quality instruments, and upgrading eight existing stations to an equivalent data instrument array. Work began in mid-August 2013 and was completed by early November. Corps contractors installed platforms at four of the new stations to protect the equipment from flood waters.
Hydrologic monitoring is designed to occur during all three phases of channel construction: a 1-year pre-construction phase; a 4-year construction phase; and a 10-year post-construction phase. Additionally, a subset of the proposed locations would continue to be operated well beyond the post-construction phase.
All data are available in real-time on the USGS National Water Information System Web Interface (also referred to as “NWISWeb”) located at http://waterdata.usgs.gov. These data will also be provided to the SHEP database managed by the Corps of Engineers.
This monitoring network will allow the Corps to make frequent assessments of river conditions and provide valuable, real-time data they can use to make adaptive management decisions.
~By Brian E. McCallum, Assistant Director, USGS Georgia Water Science Center