Thirsty For More: Augusta Shoals Appeals Water Quality Certification

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The Coastal Conservation League and American Rivers appealed Georgia's water quality certification for the City of Augusta's operation on the Augusta Canal and Diversion Dam. Lack of terms and conditions for any stream flow to be maintained in the four-mile long Augusta Shoals, a stretch of river whose flow is diverted at the dam, served as the basis for January' s appeal. The certification also did not include conditions to protect federally and state endangered species that occur in the shoals, nor did it require construction of a fish passage facility to allow migrating fish access to upstream waters. Complicating matters, the dam is located in both South Carolina and Georgia since it spans the Savannah River, the border between the states. Because the Augusta dam and canal project's main point of discharge originates in Georgia, the water quality certification was initially deemed Georgia's responsibility. As of May 7, 2004, FERC issued a notice requiring the project to obtain water quality certification from South Carolina due to a determination that a discharge originates in South Carolina. This issuance resulted in pressure from the Coastal Conservation League, Natural Heritage Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Environmental Quality (the water quality regulatory agency for South Carolina) on FERC to coordinate interstate water quality certifications for projects of this nature. This bodes well for Augusta Shoals because South Carolina's water quality standards are noticeably more strict than Georgia's requirements.A properly conditioned 401 certification is critical to the goals of enhancing riverine and coastal resource values of the Savannah River. The term of the new license is likely to be 40 years, making operating requirements of the license and effects on riverine and coastal resources important well into the future. Contact Gerrit Jobsis (gerrit@scccl.org) of the Coastal Conservation League for more information on the Augusta Shoals project.