U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing a “significant” six-foot increase in the Clarks Hill Lake level it uses to trigger releases from Thurmond Dam as part of a revised drought contingency plan.
The proposal, to o be discussed at a Wednesday workshop in North Augusta, is among several the Corps studied that has the fewest negative impacts on purposes such as flood control and hydropower production, and will like have a likely positive affect on recreation from a fuller lake, according to Billy Birdwell, senior public affairs specialist.
The proposed change is part of a periodic review of the Corps’ Drought Contingency Plan, and its definition of drought is tied exclusively to lake levels, Birdwell said.
Of several alternatives studied, including making no changes, the proposed Alternative 2 reduces the amount of water released but triggers the releases based on lower lake levels.
The existing trigger level 3 is increased from 316 feet above mean sea level to 324 feet, an increase Birdwell called significant. At that level, 3,200 cubic feet of water is released through the dam.
The lake level was at 324 feet Thursday, and has fluctuated between 319 feet and 324 feet since the beginning of the year.
By reducing the drought trigger level, the lake enters the level sooner and the Corps “can further reduce the amount of water we release from the Thurmond Dam that will likely slow the decline even more.”
The Corps expects feedback from recreational, municipal, state, federal and industrial users on either sides of Thurmond Dam at the work session and will also receive written comments through noon Thursday, July 13, Birdwell said.
Below the dam, users also expect sufficient water levels and will likely voice their concerns, he said. Congress recently directed the Corps to maintain the pool of water backed up on the Savannah behind the New Savannah Lock and Dam, he said.
Entities dependent on those levels include Augusta Utilities, which draws raw river water into the Augusta Canal for treatment.
Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier said the department occasionally has to curtail flow through the canal to maintain higher levels in the river.
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