Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nancy Albert: Levee Must Go for Riverfront Development to Come

Guest Column
Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012

After Katrina, FEMA required studies of the levees across the country to determine if they would hold during a 100 year flood. Augusta forked over more than $600K to get the verdict on our levee. The results of that study were barely reported, but yes, it would hold, but not a catastrophic dam collapse upstream, of course. Cranston Engineering (the city's favorite) did the study. This study means nobody downtown has to buy flood insurance.

I went down to the engineering department to look at the massive number of pages in the study. The fact is that the 30 ft. levee doesn't need to be more than 10' high in downtown Augusta.

I've been an advocate of taking the downtown part of the levee down and allowing private investors to develop a vibrant waterfront for many years. Think of a fishing pier, jet ski rentals, docks, caf├ęs, restaurants, bars, B&B's, and all sorts of shops. I'm not saying take down whats already built on, like the Amphitheater.

Waterfront is where it's at. Cities across the nation are developing waterfronts and enjoying tourism, jobs, revenues and fun. Augusta would not even have an imminent domain problem: they own the land on the river from the airport to the head gates; 25 miles.

Many people have advocated getting rid of the levee after the completion of Clarks Hill Dam in the 1950's including former Augusta Mayor Lewis "Pop" Newman (1973 - 1981). There are three very major hydroelectric dams above Augusta, and the closest is only 22 miles upstream.

I'm disgusted by the fascists/socialist/communists/idiotic leaders here who think nothing should be built alongside the river but baseball stadiums, Arts Centers, Golf & Gardens or whatever government revenue-negative boondoggle they can conjure up. I'm originally from Atlanta, which is booming. I've not seen a single crane in downtown Augusta that was not taxpayer-funded since the early 90's.

The freaking Canal Authority is the reason Bass Pro didn't locate here. The Canal Authority would not let them cut a trail down to the canal and a walkway for people to try out fishing equipment. Some fossils on that authority have served more than 22 years, since the inception. They wanted to leave the area "pristine" when it is overwhelmed with invasive foreign vegetation, primarily privet. The canal is another subject, though. Tragic mismanagement of an awesome asset.

Augusta is sitting on a gold mine: a gorgeous river. I put the question once to Deke and he said it would take an act of Congress. So what? Congress passes dozens of acts a day.

Attached is a photo of the chart from the FEMA study.***

Nancy Albert
FEMA Study Chart (Click to enlarge)

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