Two rivers are shown in an aerial view with heavy construction equipment floating on the water.

About 10,000 tons of rock were used to close two cuts in the Satilla River for habitat restoration.

Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources / Coastal Resources Division

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has restored some of the bends in Southeast Georgia's Satilla River.

Agency officials celebrated the closing of two cuts that were made in the river nearly a century ago to make it faster to ship timber. The cuts were filled in with more than 10,000 tons of rock, called rip-rap, that was barged into them over a 10-month period.

Project manager Jeff Schwindaman said that although they were well-intentioned at the time, the man-made cuts disrupted the area’s ecosystem.

“It sort of short-circuited the plumbing,” he said. “So what we did was kind of re-plumb it and put it back to the way it was before.”

The cuts interfered with the coming and going of the river’s tides, causing the mix of fresh and salt water to become off-balance.

“That kind of tidal action is super important for the fish and animals that live in that area,” he said. “It affects their migratory nature. It affects their spawning nature.”

Communities near the river’s Dover and Umbrella Creeks in Camden County had been calling for the restoration for decades. That’s because decades of sedimentation and poor river flow caused the river to dry up where residents wanted to go.

The project just needed funding.

Then came $3 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“It is exciting to have the first completed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law project in the nation,” said Col. Joseph Geary, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District commander. “This is a win for everyone involved, especially the environment and wildlife.”

The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Fund and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources matched the federal funding, which was necessary to complete this project.