The Savannah River drawdown simulation has reached the target level, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.

The drawdown is a simulation showing those in both South Carolina and Georgia what the Savannah River pool would look like under the Corps’ preferred alternative to the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.

The preferred alternative, known as Alternative 2-6d, would create a fixed weir with in-channel fish passage and a dry floodplain bench, as well as remove the current lock and dam.

Savannah River drawdown

The Savannah River drawdown shows what the level of the river would be if the Corps of Engineer's fixed weir alternative is built. This photo shows the river at around 4:30 p.m. from the River North neighborhood in North Augusta. 

“The fixed weir is expected to decrease the water level about 1 to 2 feet at the 5th Street Bridge gauge during average flow conditions in the downtown Augusta area,” the Corps’ blog, Balancing the Basin, said in a Jan. 31 post. It also said that because of increased rainfall since November, the simulation may appear more dramatic compared to what is typically observed in downtown Augusta between June and October.

A post on Wednesday announced the river level in the Augusta area has reached target elevation, and that the simulated level will be maintained for about seven days. Wednesday’s post echoes that because of increased rainfall, the simulation appears more dramatic than what is usually seen between June and October.

North Augusta Mayor Bob Pettit said on Tuesday the drawdown is “clearly noticeable.”

North Augusta City Council passed a resolution in January officially supporting a different alternative, option 1-1, that would retain the dam with fish passage on the Georgia side.

“I think the impact is dramatic, and I think it validates what our concerns are,” Pettit said Tuesday.

North Augusta City Council member Fletcher Dickert expressed concerns with the Corps’ preferred alternative Tuesday, saying he supports the alternative Council passed the resolution on. Dickert said the fixed weir takes away control of the river elevation and the ability to flush the river if needed.

According to their website, the Corps will be releasing a draft report laying out their modeling and analysis of the alternatives. After the report is released, there will be a 30-day comment period. Wednesday’s Balancing the Basin post also says the Corps plans to hold an interactive workshop in the Augusta area in early March where the public can learn more about the report.

According to a chart shown by the Corps at a November public meeting, the final report decision on the project will come in June 2019. The Corps is required by the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation (WIIN) Act to provide passage for short-nosed sturgeon. The WIIN Act also deauthorized the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. 

Alternative 2-6d was one of many alternatives the Corps was considering for the project, and was decided on by the Corps based on six factors: the ability to pass fish, cost, navigation, water supply, recreation and flooding. 

Lindsey Hodges is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star. Follow her on Twitter at @LindseyNHodges.