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Action Alert: Restore the Chattooga River Gorge

November 17th, 2021

The Chattooga River is a National Wild and Scenic River that flows from North Carolina and becomes the boundary of South Carolina and Georgia. The river attracts tens of thousands of people each year for rafting, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and hiking.  

The Chattooga flows wild and free for 58 miles and then comes to an abrupt end in Lake Tugalo, a reservoir created with construction of the Tugalo Dam built 100 years ago which is owned by Georgia Power. The 600-acre lake buries the river in a beautiful and stunning gorge. Many people have dreamed about what the Chattooga was like before the dam was built.

These dreams are now leading to serious efforts by American RiversChattooga ConservancyAmerican WhitewaterNaturaland TrustGeorgia Canoeing Association, and Upstate Forever to advocate for removing the Tugalo dam and restoring the Chattooga Gorge and free-flowing condition of the river. Removal of the dam would also restore nearly two miles of the lower Tallulah River.

The case for potential dam removal is quite compelling:

  • The Tugalo hydro facility is at the end of its lifespan and only generates 45 megawatts — less than 1% of Georgia Power’s total energy portfolio. When the Vogtle nuclear facility comes on line next year, production from the aging Tugalo facility will be even more negligible.
     
  • There is no development around the lake. Almost all surrounding land is owned by the State of Georgia, the U.S. Forest Service, and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
     
  • Lake Tugalo is not a drinking water source for any community. 
     
  • The Lake Tugalo area is biologically rich, geologically significant, and has been identified as a resilient area for mitigating climate change impacts. The area provides habitat for many rare and endangered plants and is right in the middle of the Brevard Fault Zone.
     
  • The lake releases methane (an extremely harmful greenhouse gas) and contains massive amounts of sediment, which could eventually negatively impact dam efficiency and require costly mitigation.

The Tugalo dam and hydroelectric facility is up for relicensing in 2036. Upstate Forever and partners reached out to Georgia Power just this year to propose a partnership to study the merits and potential of removing the dam and replacing lost capacity with a solar project. Instead of agreeing to meet and study the issue further, Georgia Power double-downed by filing an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to amend its license to allow the expenditure of approximately $25 million to “modernize” the Tugalo facility.  

If approved, this level of investment would make future relicensing of the Tugalo facility very likely, which in turn would result in the dam remaining in place for at least 50 more years.


Upstate Forever and its partners need your help! 

FERC is accepting comments on Georgia Power’s application to “modernize” the Tugalo facility, but comments must be submitted by November 26, 2021.

To comment: Visit ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx, and fill out your contact information. You will then receive an email taking you to a commenting page. Enter Docket Number P-2354-152, select the docket, then fill out your comment and submit! 

Tell FERC that: 

  • You are opposed to Georgia Power receiving approval for the licensing amendment they are requesting. 
  • Georgia Power should be required to administer a comprehensive study of the impacts associated with operating the facility for another 50 years, consider ALL feasible alternatives in addition to no action and an upgrade alternative that relies on such an old dam, and the potential benefits of removing the Tugalo dam. 
  • FERC should make no decision on Georgia Power’s application until the above study is completed. 

Finally, let FERC know how you use, enjoy and appreciate the Chattooga and Tallulah Rivers and surrounding area. 

We appreciate your help in restoring the Chattooga Gorge, and will keep you updated as this project progresses!


Photo of Jawbone rapid by Reis Birdwhistell

 

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