BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, celebrated the successful completion of closing man-made cuts in the salt marsh of the Satilla River with a ribbon cutting March 24 in Brunswick.
The main focus of the first phase of the project was the closure of two man-made cuts in the salt marsh in Camden County, Georgia, located approximately 10 miles south of Brunswick. The cuts were called Dynamite Cut and Old River Run. The work completed was part of the Noyes Cut Ecosystem Restoration Project which has the primary purpose of increasing tidal exchange throughout the system, restoring salinity gradients to Dover Creek, and reducing shoaling on Umbrella Creek.
“I’m happy to be here to celebrate the return of the Satilla River to its natural course, the way our ancestral caretakers once saw it,” said Jaime Pinkham, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for civil works. “I’m also happy to celebrate the first Bi-partisan Infrastructure Law project to be completed. You are trendsetters for working so hard to restore the estuaries. I hope others will continue this trend.”
The Bi-partisan Infrastructure Law allowed the Corps to award a $3.1 million contract to the Barnett Southern Corporation based in Washington, Georgia, to construct the project. The contractor did the on-site work with contract management and oversight provided by the Corps.
“It is exciting to have the first completed Bi-partisan Infrastructure Law project in the nation.” said Col. Joseph Geary, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District commander. “This project took many levels of coordination to make it happen, from the politicians in D.C., to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Resources Division, all the way to this community. I hope it continues to improve life and the environment. This is a win for everyone involved, especially the environment and wildlife.”
Cuts through the tidal salt marsh were made in the early 1900s by the Corps and logging companies as part of constructing the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and to facilitate river transport of timber. These alterations were well-intentioned at the time. However, their residual effects could not have been predicted given the technology of the day.
According to Fred Voigt Jr., Dover Bluff Hunting and Fishing Club chairman, the Noyes Cut Ecosystem Restoration Project is the culmination of more than 40 years of effort by Dover Bluff Club to begin the reversal of the effects of opening Noyes Cut.
Voigt went on to say, the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Fund and the management by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources matched the Corps funding, which was necessary to complete this project. The Satilla Riverkeeper has been a supporter of the Dover Bluff Club since it came into existence and has shared its knowledge along the way.
Umbrella Creek, which fronts on Dover Bluff, was once a river that didn’t have a 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. This project should resolve that situation in the years to come.
“We’re celebrating the collective commitment of our responsibility to the environment,” said Mark Williams, commissioner of the GDNR. “This project is the first of its kind. It took countless hours of collaboration by many agencies to restore the river to its natural course. Those partnerships demonstrate the importance of that hard work. Today we mark a milestone in our efforts to protect and preserve our state’s natural resources for future generations.”
With modern analytical modeling techniques now used by the Corps, the department is hopeful 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. The project is estimated to use approximately 8,000 tons for Dynamite Cut and 2,800 tons for Old River Run. The rock was 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 installed aids to navigation, consisting of signs and other markings mounted on pile foundations.