Judge blocks removal of New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam

New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, February 2020
New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, February 2020(WRDW)
Published: Nov. 23, 2020 at 8:06 PM EST
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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - A South Carolina district court judge has blocked a plan to destroy the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam in the Savannah River near North Augusta.

The U.S. District Court for South Carolina on Monday entered judgment against the Savannah District of the Army Corps of Engineers to stop it from implementing a plan to destroy the lock and dam.

The Savannah District proposed to tear down the structure to create a fixed weir system as a fish passage to lessen the impact to fish life from the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

However, the proposal would have lowered the pool and river levels several feet, which would have an effect on recreation and endanger the security of water supply to municipal and industrial users.

The state filed the lawsuit against the Corps of Engineers to stop the detrimental impact to the state’s and citizens’ interests.

The order now requires the Savannah District to develop a mitigation plan that maintains the water levels to avoid impacts on water supply and recreation.

“Today’s order is a victory for protecting State’s natural resources,” Attorney General Wilson said in the release. “This is an important decision that protects and preserves the water supply and recreation in the Savannah River.”

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. and other members of the Augusta Commission expressed content with the court decision. In a statement the mayor said:

My fellow Augustans, members of the Augusta Commission, and I are pleased with the recent decision by Federal Court Judge Gergel, permanently enjoining the implementation of a plan that would have led to the demolition of the New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam (NSBLD).

In February of 2019, we all witnessed the damage caused when there was a drawdown to simulate water levels if the proposed plan moved forward. The simulation caused the seawall to bend and demonstrated what would happen if one of Augusta’s greatest resources was demolished.

While this injunction is a good first step, there is more work that can be done. New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam is a resource that provides countless recreational, tourism, and economic development opportunities for our region. As we work to restore Augusta and the larger region post-COVID, we should be able to use every economic engine at our disposal. That is why we support legislation that provides a long-term solution for what is in the best interest of our residents and region, which includes repairing or rebuilding the New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam.

I’d like to thank David Montgomery Moore, and Earth & Water Law for their work shepherding this through in partnership with the consortium.

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