BRUNSWICK, Ga. --
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, is preparing to close man-made cuts in the salt marsh on the Satilla River in Camden County, Georgia, located approximately 10 miles south of Brunswick.
The work is part of the Noyes Cut Ecosystem Restoration Project with the intention of increasing tidal exchange throughout the system, restoring salinity gradients to Dover Creek, and reducing shoaling on Umbrella Creek.
The primary focus of this phase of the project is the closure of two man-made cuts in the salt marsh north of the Satilla River called Dynamite Cut and Old River Run and work is scheduled to begin on site between November 2022 and January 2023.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allowed the Corps to award a $3.1 million contract to the Barnett Southern Corporation based in Washington, Georgia to construct the project, said Savannah District project manager Jeff Schwindaman. The contractor will do the on-site work with contract management and oversight provided by the Corps.
Cuts through the tidal salt marsh were made in the 1930s and ‘40s by the Corps and logging companies as part of constructing the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and to facilitate river transport of timber, said Kelie Moore, the federal consistency coordinator for the Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, who is the non-federal sponsor for the project.
“These alterations were well-intentioned at the time,” said Moore. “However, their residual effects could not have been predicted given the technology of the day. With modern analytical modeling techniques now used by USACE, the department is hopeful that increased tidal exchange through Dover and Umbrella Creeks will correct salinity gradients, reduce localized sedimentation, and increase connectivity for fish and other wildlife in the Dover Bluff area; all things that were negatively impacted by the original cuts.”
Each cut closure structure will be made of riprap, which are large rocks typically used to protect shoreline structures, said Schwindaman. The project estimates to use approximately 8,000 tons for Dynamite Cut and 2,800 tons for Old River Run. The rock will be carefully placed to maximize the strength of the cut closure and to minimize impacts to fish and wildlife. The structures are expected to be exposed at low tide and underwater at high tide, and contractor will install aids to navigation consisting of signs and other markings mounted on pile foundations.
“We originally thought we would close all three marsh cuts from the feasibility study under one contract,” said Schwindaman. “During design we were forced to phase that work into two contracts due to cost. The first phase was what was just awarded to close Dynamite Cut and Old River Run and provides the bulk of the project benefits. However, we, and the sponsor, hope to be able to execute phase two to close Noyes Cut in the future subject to funding.”
The Noyes Cut Ecosystem Restoration Project is the culmination of over 80 years of effort by Dover Bluff Club to begin the reversal of the effects of opening Noyes Cut, said Fred Voigt Jr., the chairman of the River Committee for the Dover Bluff Club, a local community organization. Umbrella Creek, which fronts on Dover Bluff, was a river that had no marsh near the bluff for the entire mile of frontage, but now marsh extends as much as 100 yards due to years of sedimentation and poor river flow.
“The closures of the west end of Umbrella Creek and the Old River Run will now give us a tidal Umbrella Creek that flows in and out as intended,” said Voigt. “Now the large flow of ebb tidewater that had been going out the west end of Umbrella Creek will begin to clean the creek.”
The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Fund and the management by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources gave the Corps the matching funds necessary to complete this project, said Voigt. Additionally, the Satilla Riverkeeper has been a supporter of the Dover Bluff Club since it came into existence and has supplied many individuals with much needed knowledge and ability.
“Dover Bluff Club is excited that we are beginning to repair the mistakes of the past,” said Voigt. “The Corps of Engineers have stuck with us through the entire process. Dover Bluff Club is deeply indebted to all of these people and it’s especially heartwarming to see Georgia be so forward looking.”