Built by Georgia Power in 1923, Tugalo Dam impounds over four miles of the Chattooga River and two miles of the Tallulah River. As an organization dedicated to the health and ecological integrity of the Chattooga River watershed, fully restoring the Chattooga to its most natural, free-flowing and ecologically robust form is a top priority. Further, decommissioning Tugalo Dam would restore nearly 600 acres of riverine forest and reconnect three major wildlands: the Brasstown Heritage Trust Preserve, Tallulah Gorge State Park, and almost 60 miles of the Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River Corridor.
From the miles of discoverable river currents to the expansion of critical habitats for endemic species, the removal of the Tugalo Dam will bring multifaceted benefits to all who appreciate this hotspot of biological diversity and outdoor recreation.
A group of organizations, including the Chattooga Conservancy, American Rivers, American Whitewater, Upstate Forever, Naturaland Trust, and the Georgia Canoeing Association, are now allied to pursue Tugalo Dam removal.
Georgia Power is slated to begin the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) relicensing process for the Tugalo Dam in 2031. However, Georgia Power just filed for a license amendment that essentially circumvents the standard FERC relicensing process, with the intent of significantly prolonging the life of the aging dam for at least another 40 years.
Our team, represented by a private attorney, is currently engaged in the Georgia Public Service Commission hearings for Georgia Power's 2022 IRP (Integrated Resource Plan). The power company is requesting approval of a budget of $115 million to update the hydroelectric turbines at the Tugalo Dam. It is unreasonable for Georgia Power to invest so much money in updating these turbines just nine years ahead of their FERC license renewal, as the dam itself is nearing the end of its lifespan. Furthermore, that investment would assume the need for relicensing, since the turbines would be set to function for the next 40 years. Our team, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, is also challenging Georgia Power’s recent license amendment request to FERC. We believe that halting these now is an essential step in the potential decommissioning of the power plant and removal of the dam.
At this time, there are two critical aspects of this project that we need your help to achieve:
1. Legal Fees: We are being represented by a private attorney in the ongoing Public Service Commission hearings–the outcome of which is very important in the goal of decommissioning Tugalo Dam.
2. Visualization of Restored River Reaches: Our coalition is contracting with the University of Georgia's College of Environmental Design to create static and dynamic visualizations of the restored reaches of the Chattooga and Tallulah Rivers. Outputs will consist of image and video renderings of the restored streams’ valley and one or more simulated video fly-throughs of the restored sections of the Chattooga and Tallulah Rivers.
We hope you will join us in our goal to Restore Chattooga Gorge, which includes the confluence of two of the Southeast's most iconic rivers, the Tallulah and the Chattooga. Our website has background information and will be updated throughout this campaign.
Photo by: Miguel A Gomez