The Battelle Independent Expert Peer Review Report (IEPR Report) was recently completed and handed over to the Corps of Engineers.
“Type I IEPR is conducted on project study decision documents. It is critically important for decision documents (and supporting work products) that have public safety concerns, significant controversy, a high level of complexity, or significant economic, environmental, and social effects to the nation.”
U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS National Planning Centers of Expertise
These independent reports were required by Congress following the flood wall and levee failures in Hurricane Katrina.
Basically, Congress hires an Expert Panel to babysit the Corps for important projects.
The Report has not been made public by the Corps, but we have received a copy of the report, and it was BRUTAL to the Corps in so many ways.
The panel cautioned that, before building the full river rock weir Augustans saw during the disastrous draw down, “several … additional analyses and evaluations are warranted, assumptions need to be clarified or documented, and some descriptions need clarification.”
Interpreted: You’re not getting up from this table until you finish eating your vegetables, mister.
The Experts submitted 21 “comments” that covered topics like (paraphrasing)
“we can’t tell why you think these plans will cost this much;”
“it’s impossible for us to tell what you think the water levels will be after the rock weir;” “tell us again why you think this rock weir will actually work for sturgeon without injuring them ”;
“hey … why didn’t you guys include anything about that disastrous draw down in here?”
But most importantly, the panel told the Corps their plan does not comply with the law because it lowers water levels.
Expert Report, page 9
And all the people in the congregation—who have by now forked over hundreds of thousands in Augusta and North Augusta taxpayer dollars on consultants to tell the Corps the exact same same things—said Hallelujah!
To Insiders fighting the removal of the Lock and Dam, the pastor-experts have provided a lifeline at this 11th hour big tent Savannah River Revival.
The Expert Panel seemed confused the Corps is fixated on building a full river rock weir that will illegally lower the pool when there are so many other good options that don’t.
Expert Panel Report, page 7
Dr. Boyd Kynard, one of the nation’s preeminent sturgeon experts, served on the Expert Panel. Dr. Kynard is often hired and relied on by NOAA and the Corps for his expertise; and by often we mean damn near every time anything sturgeon-related happens.
Dr. Kynard and the Panel suggest in their Report that the Corps look at “smaller-sized fishways” that will pass sturgeon without lowering the pool.
The Report even included a handy photograph of one such project that was built in New York last year to pass sturgeon.
Expert Panel Report, page 24 Credit: Lenney
And with that the congregation ran for the exits to find their Congressmen.
One group in particular has worked hard to get local, state and national political support for implementing Dr. (er, Pastor) Kynard’s recommendation.
The group, called Save the Middle Savannah River, is no stranger to this fight.
Ring Leader Roy Simkins and Front Man Tom Robertson (who was also hired by Augusta to contribute to its “comments” on the proposed rock weir) were fighting a lowered pool years before anyone else (cough, cough, Riverkeeper) would even admit the pool was going to be lowered.
Now they and the heavy hitters they roll with have put together what they’re calling the new “Proposed Consensus Solution.”
They’re out talking about it to leaders at local, state and national levels; and they’re having success according to those close to the situation.
And why wouldn’t they have success?
It keeps the pool, passes sturgeon, gets the harbor what it needs right now without any more controversy, costs less than the weir, restores access to the Atlantic Ocean by fixing the Lock, saves the park and leaves plenty of room for Augusta’s whitewater plans.
Will it be enough? The Corps is set to finalize their plan for a pool-lowering full river rock weir any day now (I mean no one actually does what the babysitter says, right?). Things could get murkier at that point for sure.
But for now insiders say there is a tremendous amount of optimism for this plan. And who the hell would bet against a Big Tent Revival? Can we get an amen?