Up to 7,000 tons of oxygen sought for Thurmond Lake

Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012 12:50 PM
Last updated 10:11 PM
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A new system to improve fish habitat in lower Thurmond Lake could deploy as much as 7,000 tons of liquid oxygen this year, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plant in Modoc, S.C., will inject Thurmond Lake with liquid oxygen to keep fish from migrating close to dam turbines.  ROB PAVEY/FILE
ROB PAVEY/FILE
A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plant in Modoc, S.C., will inject Thurmond Lake with liquid oxygen to keep fish from migrating close to dam turbines.

The network of submerged oxygen diffusers, which cost $11.3 million to design and build, went online for testing last June and is fed by two above-ground, 20,000-gallon tanks near Modoc, S.C.

Its purpose is to improve water quality in the lower end of the lake during hot weather, when elevated surface water temperatures drive striped bass upstream in search of cooler, oxygenated water.

Those fish often congregate in the tailrace of Russell Dam, where there is more oxygen, but where the dam’s reversible turbines have been shown to kill fish and raise water temperatures in the lake.

During startup testing last year, the system consumed about 5,100 tons of oxygen, costing $395,000, corps spokesman Billy Birdwell said.

A 2012 procurement notice issued this week seeks providers for 5,000 tons, with the option to add 2,000 tons if needed.

Jamie Sikes, the corps’ district fisheries biologist, said the system will be used as needed from June through September, when a phenomenon known as the “thermal squeeze” affects Southeastern reservoirs and their large sport fish.

As warm weather heats the lake, surface water becomes too hot for stripers and the cooler layers of water below become nearly devoid of dissolved oxygen.

The diffusers, placed at depths of 80 to 120 feet about five miles upstream from Thurmond Dam, help oxygenate that cooler, deeper water to provide a suitable hot-weather habitat that keeps the fish from migrating upstream.

Though data are still being gathered and evaluated, tests were conducted last year using stripers tracked by radio transmitters.

“We know from the early results that there were striped bass that stayed down in the lower portion of the lake all summer,” Sikes said.

In addition to holding stripers in the lower end of the lake, oxygenating the deeper layers of water improves water quality in the Savannah River below Thurmond Dam.

The system is part of the plan under which Russell Dam was allowed to become fully operational. The corps agreed in 2002 that only two of the four reversible units would be operated during warmer months to avoid heating up the tailrace area and disrupting striper activities.

The successful operation of the oxygenation system will allow the corps to operate all four pump back units year-round, allowing water from Thurmond Lake to be reused for hydropower production.

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Sweet son
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Sweet son 02/28/12 - 02:01 pm
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Good article Rob but isn't it

Good article Rob but isn't it a shame that man has messed up something that God would have handled for free! The appetite for power and recreation have overshadowed the God made natural beauty of the mighty Savannah!

David Parker
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David Parker 02/28/12 - 02:11 pm
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technically, God didn't make

technically, God didn't make Thurmond where the problem exists, but I get the point. Still, using the Savannah for electricity beats using up fossil fuels I would figure.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/28/12 - 02:18 pm
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With half a million dollars

With half a million dollars for purchasing oxygen, the radio transmitters, manpower costs, maintenance costs, plus the amortization of the $11.3 million up-front costs, this project is well over a million dollars a year. I hope those fish taste good, because they are some of the most expensive fish in America.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/28/12 - 02:19 pm
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I'll bet those guys who used

I'll bet those guys who used to fish in the Russell Dam tailrace are cursing these oxygenators.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/28/12 - 02:25 pm
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You know, it takes a lot of

You know, it takes a lot of electricity to manufacture $500,000 worth of liquid oxygen.

REDRIDER
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REDRIDER 02/28/12 - 02:26 pm
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All about electricity

All about electricity production. That's makes well over 12 million a year.

David Parker
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David Parker 02/28/12 - 02:29 pm
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This is all for the larger

This is all for the larger sportfish, aka Stripers. I've eaten a bass and it was not a good thing. Cr@ppie, shell-cracker, catfish, perch all taste fine but something ain't right with them bass. Could have been just that particular lunker but it ruined it for me.

Fishboy
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Fishboy 02/28/12 - 02:51 pm
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I think the main reason for

I think the main reason for building Thurmond was flood control. Without that dam, the waterfront in downtown Augusta and North Augusta could never have been developed...

burninater
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burninater 02/28/12 - 04:00 pm
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I wonder how many sport

I wonder how many sport fisherman sit above their tax-payer-funded recreation site and grumble and gripe about the tax-and-spend gov't ...

seenitB4
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seenitB4 02/28/12 - 04:41 pm
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Fishboy does has a

Fishboy does has a point.....

Don't we have oxygen all around us....why not just pump it from the air.....I just don't quite understand the method of air insertion I'm sure.
:0)

burninater
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burninater 02/28/12 - 07:02 pm
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SeenitB4, I'm guessing that

SeenitB4, I'm guessing that the 80% of the air around us that isn't oxygen may be the problem ...

All but 2% of that is nitrogen, and excess nitrogen causes a couple of problems for fish: it encourages algae growth, which in turn sucks up oxygen from the water, and it makes it harder for fish to eliminate nitrogen, which they excrete from their gills primarily as ammonia.

Not sure if this is definitely the reason for using pure oxygen though ...

Pu239
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Pu239 02/28/12 - 08:12 pm
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I hope none of those stripers
Unpublished

I hope none of those stripers are smokin' when they turn on the oxygen. As a follow up...will smoking be banned at the lake because oxygen is in use?

wribbs
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wribbs 02/29/12 - 01:18 am
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@ Redrider All about

@ Redrider All about electricity production. That's makes well over 12 million a year.

Are you saying the dam produces a profit well over $12 million a year selling electricity? Wow.

panamajoe98
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panamajoe98 02/29/12 - 02:37 am
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$11 million here in CSRA.

$11 million here in CSRA. Use your imagination and think about how much more waste there is going on.

Geez, the alternative is more algae? That's Obumma's magic potion for fuel!!

We have to stop this insane spending NOW.

Clean Water
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Clean Water 02/29/12 - 07:28 am
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When environmental agencies

When environmental agencies allow sewage treatment facalities, private and muncipalities to discharge into our water ways, problems tent to happen. Algae grows and bacteria can cause water to lack oxygen. This paper has stated that the algae has effected the Blad Eagle population. Mr. Pavey also stated in an article that some our water ways have high bacteria levels. I wonder how it effects people who get there water from the Savannah River. Isn't there an algae problem near Augusta? DHEC has watershed Assessment Book that anyone can obtain, just by asking. Savannah River Basin.

REDRIDER
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REDRIDER 02/29/12 - 09:07 am
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Yes with with four major dams

Yes with with four major dams and several smaller turbines and dams on the Tallulah River and the Chattooga River part of the Savannah river system with generators on the Savannah river the make a lot more than 12 million a year. Four majors are Hartwell,Russell,Clark Hill, Stevens Creek. Yes it is for flood control but they make money from power in peak hours.Not to mention fishing industry that is economic impact to both SC and Georgia.

David Parker
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David Parker 02/29/12 - 10:29 am
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Bottom line, is it gonna make

Bottom line, is it gonna make swimming in Clark's Hill in August better? B/c the way it stands now, I get the same sensation from jumping in a dirty jacuzzi after it's been set to high for several hours.

Willow Bailey
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Willow Bailey 02/29/12 - 11:33 am
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I really don't get how the

I really don't get how the expense of this is justified in this economy. It's not like fishing is an economic industry here. I know the fishing tournaments bring income and all that and there a few who make their living as fishing guides, but come on, this is a lot of money being thrown out and there are greater needs. Didn't see where the article quoted the source of the money, federal or state?

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/29/12 - 11:41 am
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Good post, Willow. Rob has

Good post, Willow. Rob has written articles before about dredging the harbor at Savannah to accommodate those new super transport ships that sit deeper in the water. Part of the process to get a dredging permit is going to include an oxygen injection system in the dredged-out portion. Now, that is really ridulous. That oxygenated water will just be swept out to the ocean. What a waste!

David Parker
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David Parker 02/29/12 - 12:20 pm
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Just a warning: Nobody

Just a warning: Nobody better not pull Ralph Barbee into this.... Let that man concentrate of fishing :)

lsmith
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lsmith 02/29/12 - 01:45 pm
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And the Corps is marketing
Unpublished

And the Corps is marketing the electricity through Southeast Power Administration who then sells to utilities such as Georgia Power company. The corps says this is an effort to provide electricity at the lowest price to us but in reality it makes no impact on what we pay for electricity. Market prevails. That power is put on the grid and from time to time could find it's way to a light bulb in New York City. The corps uses that hyrodro electricity for income period.
The reversible turbines at Russell were and still are unneeded, a waste of money and certainly not worth the resultant detrimental problems to lake water quality. They've been pouring millions into studies, tests and remedy ever since the reversible turbines were conceived.
I'd feel a whole lot better about the situation if the power made a noticeable difference on our power bills. No one will miss one killowatt hour of that electricity if those turbines never run again, and the power grid will continue to have ample electricty to sell to us saps.

lsmith
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lsmith 02/29/12 - 01:59 pm
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Those reversible turbines
Unpublished

Those reversible turbines were an ill conceived project from the beginning. The corps has spent untold millions in studies, test and remedies since they were completed. Why were they built to begin with?The corps stated reasoning for marketing hyropower to SPA is to provide electricity to US at the lowest price. Right! Its sold to us at prevailing rates and that same power is just as likely to run a light bulb in new york as in Augusta. The bottom line is the electricity is not needed enough to warramt take such extreme measures, particularly when water quality and fish habitat are so negatively impacted. But, that's the government for you

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