Removing a Dam to Restore the River

It’s the Year of the River, and talk of dam removal is happening in every region of the country.

My opinion piece about restoring the Savannah River, a shared treasure of South Carolina and Georgia – by removing the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, was recently published in the Augusta Chronicle.

It sparked a lively debate, and I’d like to set the record straight on several counts.

American Rivers doesn’t support the dredging project in Savannah Harbor because digging up the river bottom to make it deeper for shipping traffic destroys river habitat and damages water quality. However, if the project does more forward, it is imperative that the Army Corps helps mitigate the damage it causes to the river’s health and imperiled sturgeon.

The best way to do that is to remove the dam, which would open up new upstream spawning and nursery habitat for sturgeon to give this endangered fish a fighting chance at survival. Dam removal would also create new opportunities for recreation and riverside parks and trails in Augusta.

American Rivers has helped hundreds of communities around the country restore their rivers through dam removal and we work with communities to help them make the decision that is right for them. We work with landowners, fishermen, businesses and others to talk about the change that removing a dam brings, and how the river and community can benefit.

Ultimately, dams, levees and other man-made structures disrupt the natural functions of rivers, leaving many of them lifeless or cut off from their communities.

Restoring the river can increase property values, boost recreational opportunities, attract tourists, reduce water pollution, and protect people and property from flooding. So in the long term, our goal is to champion sustainable approaches to river management that restore natural river functions, floodplains and wetlands.