Engineers assess New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam with an eye for proposed fish passage

Engineers and dive team members prepare to inspect the New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam in Augusta, Nov. 15. Team members will use the results of the inspection to aid in the preparation of plans and specifications for the design of the proposed fish passage.

Engineers and dive team members prepare to inspect the New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam in Augusta, Nov. 15. Team members will use the results of the inspection to aid in the preparation of plans and specifications for the design of the proposed fish passage. Photo by Lucia Newberry.

SAVANNAH, Ga. – As contractors continue to move forward on four of SHEP’s environmental mitigation projects, a small team made headway on another front — the proposed fish passage – near Augusta this week.

Engineers and divers inspected the New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam, Nov. 15-16, as part of an annual inspection and continuation of the design phase of the fish passage.

The fish passage will compensate for impacts the SHEP will have on the Shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon, both of which are endangered species. When constructed, the fish passage will allow the sturgeon and other species access to suitable spawning grounds upstream at the Augusta Shoals.

The results of the inspection, which are expected next week, will provide an update on the structural, electrical, mechanical and geotechnical status of the dam. In addition, the report will recommend which repairs, if any, will be necessary to ensure the structure meets the minimum requirements to support the fish passage when constructed.

The pool behind the current structure, which provides public recreation and supply intakes for a dozen large industries and municipalities, will provide flows through the fish passage.

This is an artist's rendering of the fish bypass at the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. Image courtesy of Blair Remy Architects.

An artist’s rendering of the fish bypass at the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. Image courtesy of Blair Remy Architects.

“The structure is just in bad shape,” said Lucia Newberry, Dam Safety program manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District.

The nearly 80-year-old lock and dam was constructed to assist commercial navigation from the mouth of the Savannah River to Augusta but fell into a “caretaker” status in 1979 because barge traffic largely ceased.

According to Beth Williams, SHEP technical lead, that status places it at a lower priority to receive funding for maintenance and repairs.

While the fish passage project remains in the design phase, construction should start in late 2018 or early 2019. It must start before or run concurrent with inner harbor dredging, according to Spencer Davis, senior project manager for SHEP.

More background on the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.

~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office

About US Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District oversees a multi-million dollar military construction program at 11 Army and Air Force installations in Georgia and North Carolina. We also manage water resources across the Coastal Georgia region, including maintenance dredging of the Savannah and Brunswick harbors; operation of three hydroelectric dams and reservoirs along the upper Savannah River; and administration of an extensive stream and wetland permitting and mitigation program within the state of Georgia. Follow us on Twitter @SavannahCorps and on Facebook.com/SavannahCorps
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