Construction at Lake Olmstead to solve years of flooding problems

Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 6:22 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - For years we’ve reported problem after problem at Lake Olmstead, from flooding to toxic algae to high levels of bacteria.

After more than 10 years of planning, the process to make the lake deeper has finally started. And contractors have already started the prep work.

“Lake Olmstead continuously has had its issues for many years now,” Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus said.

Residents and recreators near Lake Olmstead have had to deal with flooding, litter, mud, and even toxic algae.

Augusta Engineering Director Hameed Malik hopes dredging the lake, which means removing sediment and making it deeper, will restore the lake to a place it once was: a place safe to swim, boat, and even waterski.

“We’re going to be dredging around the shoreline, maybe two to three feet,” Malik said. “But inner dredging volume may be going up to 6 to 8 feet to give enough water depth for smaller boats or jet skis.”

It’s a $6 million project, nearly double what the city initially anticipated paying with the majority coming will come from SPLOST and the city’s stormwater fees.

One of the goals is to solve the major flooding problem in the area.

“The sediments are taking the capacity of the lake. That means it can’t store more storm, it’s going to create more flooding to the surrounding areas,” Malik said.

By removing about 240,000 cubic yards of sediment, the Savannah Riverkeeper says it’ll also improve the water quality.

“Some of that contaminated -- that’s been getting in there for years. It really kind of speaks to the future of the growth of tourism in the area,” Bonitatibus said.

A city that’s ready to breathe life, back into the lake.

The actual dredging should start around the new year. The lake will be closed during construction, but kayaking companies tell us they’ll have other points to exit the canal, so their business won’t be disrupted.

Augusta engineering predicts the project will take about nine months to complete.

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