The next phase of an important study of the Savannah River and its resources got a formal green light this week from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with support from Georgia and South Carolina and a new partner – The Nature Conservancy.
The first leg of the Savannah River Basin Comprehensive Study was completed in 2006. The $1.8 million effort included collecting data on water supply and computer modeling to determine how changes in the operation of the river and its dams affect lake levels and downstream conditions.
On Thursday, during a water summit at Lake Hartwell attended by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, plans were laid for the next round, which will cost about $908,000.
The new portion of the study will include a drought contingency plan update based on the most recent “drought of record” for the basin, from 2007 to 2009. “Drought of record” refers to the driest drought experienced in the history of the basin.
A primary objective will be to determine the “minimum environmentally acceptable release” at Thurmond Dam during drought conditions and the duration such a release can be sustained, according to a corps summary of the project.
Researchers also want to learn how long those minimum outflows can be sustained before significant impacts occur to the economy and environment.
The cost of the study is shared by the federal government and the states, with The Nature Conservancy added as a nonfederal sponsor for the next segment.
Among those attending at the Hartwell water caucus was Bob Young, the president of Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy in Augusta, which is conducting its own detailed flow studies along the river.
“I guess the common theme for all the speakers was that the two states should work together on these river issues, rather than fight over them in court,” Young said.