June showers make up for May’s wilted flowers

You know that feeling when you take a sip of ice cold water and you can feel it go all the way down your esophagus? That was last week after the unbearably dry month of May.

It was so dry for the Savannah River Basin (“How dry was it?!”) that each of the sub-basins surpassed their monthly totals for May in just the first full weekend in June alone.

It was so dry that the Savannah River Basin popped up as a possible match on the Sahara Desert’s Tinder (She swiped left).

It was so dry … (insert your own dad joke here, it is Father’s Day this weekend, after all).

All jokes aside, Thurmond led the sub-basins with a *whopping* 2.5 inches (compared to its 3.7-inch average) in May, while Russell and Hartwell picked up a shabby 2.3 and 2.1 inches (on their 3.7- and 4.6-inch averages, respectively).

But that’s all behind us now as Mother Nature turned on the faucet and has already dumped enough rainfall to exceed June’s monthly average at Hartwell and Thurmond. All that with more than two full weeks left in the month.

So far Hartwell has received 4.8 inches (versus its 4.7-inch average), while Thurmond has collected 4.7 inches (compared to its 3.8-inch average). Russell is sitting at 3.5 inches – well within striking distance of its 3.8-inch average for June.

Looking ahead to the rest of the summer, all three reservoirs are sittin’ pretty and are projected to be at or above full pool through August, according to the 10-week projections from last week.

And with a gift like that from Mother Nature last week, we’re not even asking for anything  for Father’s Day this year.

~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office

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Dredging pilot project could be a game-changer for Georgia coast

A drone’s eye view of the 5-acre plot where the thin layer placement portion of the pilot project is being conducted near Jekyll Creek.

JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. – Conventional wisdom warns against building on shaky ground, but the future of Georgia’s coastline could very well rest on 5 acres of “pluff mud.”

(Watch a video about the pilot project here.)

Workers with Cottrell Contracting of Chesapeake, Va., are currently wrapping up a three-month-long dredging pilot project, which seeks to find cost-effective, environmentally friendly disposal methods for this especially silty, watery material that comprises much of Georgia’s portion of Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW).

The project will deepen a channel near Jekyll Creek to 10 feet, placing 5,000 cubic yards into a nearby marsh and the other 220,000 cubic yards into a naturally scouring “deep hole” in St. Simons Sound. Contractors expect to complete the project by the end of June.

“The closest disposal options are about seven miles offshore and that’s very costly,” said Jonathan Broadie, project manager for the pilot project and acting chief of navigation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District. “So not only are we finding a place to put the material but we’re also finding ways to help protect the marsh.”

The experienced contractors quickly discovered this wasn’t a typical dredging gig and had to adjust throughout the project.

“It’s different because it is maintenance material that is extremely soft and silty and high liquid,” said Burt Moore, chief of dredging for Savannah District. “It doesn’t like to stay in place, it likes to move.”

Moore, who has more than 25 years of experience working with the dredging industry, described the difficulties contractors faced. Not only must they position the dredge safely in the waterway but they must also wait for favorable tides to dredge. Plus, they need to contend with the wind, which could easily undo a day’s work.

Daniel Miller, a leverman with Cottrell Contracting, operates the Rockridge Island dredge near Jekyll Creek.

Contractors placed porous coconut coir logs along the border of the designated 5-acre portion of the marsh to retain the dredged material and allow marsh grasses to adapt to the new level, which was anywhere from 2 inches to a foot higher in elevation.

Scientists and researchers with Georgia Southern University and the University of South Carolina will monitor the marsh and associated wildlife periodically over the next few years to ensure the health of the marsh and the associated ecosystem.

The deep water placement portion of the pilot project had a different set of challenges.

According to Moore, contractors had to run a 40,000 foot sub-line to deliver the material within 3 feet of the bottom of the deep hole. They are also adding sediment tracers to the dredged material to ensure it actually makes it to the bottom.

Researchers with LG2 Environmental, along with USACE Savannah District survey team experts will use the tracers to study how the material naturally disperses in the surrounding areas and determine if this disposal method is viable for future projects.

If successful, the thin layer placement dredging technique, which has been used in Maryland, New Jersey and Louisiana, could be used throughout Georgia’s Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway as an environmentally sound, cost-effective method that also bolsters the state’s coast against the negative effects of sea level rise and climate change.

After the pilot project wraps up at the end of June, three other troublesome portions of the AIWW including Buttermilk Sound, Hell Gate and Fields Cut, will be dredged.

Other partners in the project include U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, Jekyll Island Authority, The Nature Conservancy, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office

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Thurmond: Set a course for full pool

After what feels like a decade in the making, contractors finished repairing the 23 seals on Thurmond’s gates last week. (Full exhale).

As we reported previously, repairing the gates was more complex than just ordering parts from Amazon and slapping them on.

It took years to obtain separate appropriations, in addition to manufacturing the seals themselves. The work itself was painstaking, which required contractors to contend with the elements each day while water managers delicately balanced the pool.

In addition to the seals, contractors also replaced seven sets of lifting chains on the main unit intake gates, which allow operators to shut off the water supply coming into the dam via the penstocks.

These were the original chains from when the power plant came online in 1954, according to Wes Butler, Thurmond’s power project manager.

Butler said the old chains were replaced with all stainless steel construction, which should last the lifetime of the dam.

However, after all this maintenance, we’re not resting on our laurels.

In fact, a group of safety experts and geotechnical engineers will conduct a comprehensive dam inspection today, including a test of the newly replaced seals on the gates.

According to Stan Simpson, Savannah District’s senior water manager, personnel will raise each gate, one at a time, by one foot, to ensure all the pieces are functioning properly.

Other specialists will survey the embankments and structural aspects of the dam. The test should last approximately eight hours.

Simpson said the amount of water released during the test will be negligible and he expects Thurmond to be at guide curve (330 feet) by the end of the week.

“We’ll be using water that is currently in flood storage at Hartwell and routing it through the system,” he said.

In addition, Simpson said he expects another front that is developing in the Midwest to bring water into the Savannah River Basin later this week to next week.

~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communication Office

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Flowers or not, April’s rain still welcome

The Savannah River Basin continued its march toward summer with stable, (mostly) above average rainfall in April.

Hartwell kicked it up a notch, collecting a solid 6.2 inches compared to its 4.6-inch average.

After running rainfall deficits for the past two months, Thurmond just beat its 3.6-inch average when it received 3.9 inches.

The middle child, Russell, came up short by one-half inch with 3.1 inches versus its 3.6-inch average for April.

The good news for all these April showers is they kept the basin on solid footing as the recreation season gears up.

Some stakeholders may have noticed the remainder of our campgrounds and day-use areas opened this week.

As the temperatures rise, plants will pull more water from the soil and more water will evaporate from the reservoirs, which have been sitting at or above full pool (with the exception of Thurmond, which is still undergoing maintenance).

Spawning season is also scheduled to wrap up this month so it looks like we’ll be back on track for a “normal” full-filled summer in no time.

~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office

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Children brighten up the workplace

The 30 children who took part in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District’s National Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day event, April 25, 2019, pose in the lobby in their best engineer stance.

Savannah District hosted 30 children as part of National Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, April 25.

TODS Day is celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of April, and according to the TODS foundation website, is an effort to empower young people to effect positive change within their communities, schools and homes.

The day is something the staff at the Savannah District takes great pleasure in sharing with the children according to Sam Robinson, Savannah District equal employment specialist.

(Watch a video of children at Savannah District’s TODS here.)

“I plan on having this smile on my face all day … you know why? Having all of you here today brings me so much joy,” said Robinson.

During their day at the Savannah District children got hands-on experience with projects like building towers out of straws, the effect people have on our wetlands and water safety.

“It’s fun interacting with the kids and teaching them about the right way to do things and mentoring them to see what areas they might want to go into,” said Jason Whittaker, Savannah District structural engineering chief.

Jalaia Ross, 12, whose mother is a contract specialist with the Corps, looked forward to attending the event.

“I was super excited to come here. I learned that there are multiple jobs here when I thought there was just one,” she said.

At the end of the day there were still smiles all around.

“I am happy and I still have a smile on my face because all of you have a smile on your face,” said Robinson.

~ Jonathan Bell, Corporate Communications Office

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Accounting for the basin’s smallest stakeholders

For much of the year, we concentrate on stakeholders living on or around our three reservoirs along the Savannah River Basin.

However, for a short period each spring, our focus shifts to the residents in those reservoirs. Continue reading

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Commander welcomes Army’s Civil Works Secretary to Augusta

After landing The Hon. R. D. James (right), assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, is escorted off the flightline by Col. Daniel Hibner, Savannah District commander (center-left), Erik Blechinger (left), Savannah District deputy district engineer, and Alvin Lee, South Atlantic Division programs director.

Tuesday we were honored to welcome the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, The Honorable R. D. James to Augusta, Georgia, who visited to learn the details surrounding the future Fish Passage at the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. Continue reading

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Winter’s momentum masks March’s mums

The Savannah River Basin has been posting some impressive stats in the past six months, but last month was not one of them. Continue reading

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More explanation on the illustration in the last post

Our last post included a graphic that attracted a number of comments, so this post is intended to further explain the illustration. Continue reading

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Alt 2-6d is not the only in-channel alternative

In our last post we disclosed the reasons why we eliminated Alternative 1-1 from further consideration. Cost was a big factor, but the main reason is the lower probability involved with Alt 1-1’s ability to pass fish.

Passing fish is the primary purpose of this fish-passage project, so we must succeed in that effort. And success in this case requires a full-river width in-channel fish passage. Continue reading

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