Georgia city joins SC in fighting dam demolition project

A Georgia city is joining South Carolina’s fight to block a federal plan for demolishing the New Savannah Lock and Dam.

The Augusta Chronicle reports the city of Augusta has filed papers in federal court to become part of South Carolina’s lawsuit to block a proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The federal agency wants to demolish the existing dam and construct a passage that would make it easier for sturgeon and other migratory fish to swim upstream on the Savannah River for spawning. The change would lower water levels around downtown Augusta, where many people oppose it.

The lock and dam has been operating since 1937, and Augusta’s compliant says federal environmental laws require that the government maintain water levels. South Carolina filed suit against the proposed change in November.

Augusta argues that federal officials failed to consider numerous aspects of lowering the Savannah, including it being the sole public water supply and the city’s dependence on “adequate flows, volumes and water elevations.” The river is the vital to the city’s health and future, the document said.

The plan for a fish passage was developed through litigation related to a plan to deepen and expand Savannah’s harbor, located about 180 miles downstream. While South Carolina asked a court to block the Savannah project, Augusta didn’t make the same request.

The Corps of Engineers contends it is legally required to remove the dam to improve fish habitat in the Savannah River as the harbor project goes forward.