Corps cutting flow from lake

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The Army Corps of Engineers has begun the gradual process of reducing flows in the Savanah River about 15 percent, to an average of 3,100 cubic feet per second.

"We started the reductions yesterday because it will take seven to 10 days to gradually move down to the new levels," corps spokesman Billy Birdwell said Tuesday.

The reductions -- bringing the lowest flows since a federal drought management plan was created in 1989 -- are designed to slow the decline of water levels at Thurmond Lake and other upstate reservoirs while balancing those interests with the needs of downstream users, such as drinking water plants in Augusta and North Augusta, large industries and wastewater-treatment facilities.

"It's probably nothing anyone will notice downstream, but it will be noted in the long run upstream," Mr. Birdwell said. "It will buy us extra time should the drought continue as we predict it may."

The lower flows will be in effect through January, rather than through February as originally planned, he said, because of concern over potential impact on the endangered shortnose sturgeon, which lives in the river and spawns in February.

"There is still some discussion about February," he said. "We haven't made a final decision yet."

The flow reduction was applauded by lake-area residents such as Barb Shelley, a facilitator with the Friends of the Savannah River Basin group, which has helped educate residents about the drought and its impact on water management in the upstate reservoirs.

"This is good news and establishes a precedent to going below the current mandated minimum flow of 3,600 cubic feet per second," she said. "However, we are not happy about the reduction only through January, with a possible extension through February, rather than definitely through the end of February."

The city of Augusta, which pulls drinking water from the Augusta Canal and from the river, is not expected to be affected, although there could be environmental consequences for the shoals, which run parallel to the canal.

"We know the city of Augusta will continue to pull what they need through the Augusta Canal, and they've warned us of impacts on the shoals, but we've determined those impacts are not significant enough to avoid this action," Mr. Birdwell said.

Plant Vogtle's twin nuclear reactors 20 miles below Augusta, which consume about 43 million gallons of water daily, will not be affected by the lower flows, said Georgia Power spokeswoman Amoi Jeter .

Farther downstream, the impact on fragile coastal estuaries and the 29,000-acre Savannah National Wildlife Refuge will be monitored. Concerns were raised that lower river flows could let saltwater move farther upstream and affect freshwater areas.

Mr. Birdwell said the corps is prepared to re-evaluate the plan if negative effects are documented downstream.

Currently, Thurmond's pool is 313.99 feet above sea level, more than 16 feet below its full pool of 330 feet above sea level. Forecasts indicate that the lake will continue to drop, despite the movement of more water from Hartwell into Thurmond to enable Thurmond to maintain minimum flows to the river.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

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Fishboy
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Fishboy 11/26/08 - 08:48 am
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It's probably nothing anyone

It's probably nothing anyone will notice downstream, but it will be noted in the long run upstream," Mr. Birdwell said. Yeah right. Tell that to the people who won't be able to use the boat ramp below New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.

Tell it like it is
35
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Tell it like it is 11/26/08 - 09:24 am
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Lake Thurmond you mean DRY

Lake Thurmond you mean DRY LAKE.
Birdwell could have prevented this by cutting the flow this spring.
Millions of dollars have been lost from the business that depend on the lake. Property for lakefront sites have lost their value.
Maybe Obamma will appoint someone who knows how to conserve our water level.

thistownisunbelievable
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thistownisunbelievable 11/26/08 - 09:43 am
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But don't worry about Lake

But don't worry about Lake Russell. It's almost at full pool, while Hartwell and Thurmond dry up.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 11/26/08 - 10:23 am
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The flow has already been

The flow has already been significantly reduced and the way the output is calculated has been changed to include the effects of the Stevens Creek input. Let's hope this further reduction doesn't cause damage downstream. Columbia Cty waste treatment water goes in above Richmond Cty drinking water intake. Y'all better hope there is enough water flowing.

Tujeez
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Tujeez 11/26/08 - 09:48 pm
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Riverman1, The "wastewater"

Riverman1, The "wastewater" from Most wastewater treatment plants is cleaner than the water that is already in the river. The Waste Sludge is, or was, being dumped on farmland as a soil ammendment. That is, until it was found to contain "heavy metals"(in Richmond County). The foodstuff grown on those fields was fed to milk cows. Now I wouldn't wager that the milk was as pure as the "wastewater" being released into the river. The wastewater is released into the River as a precaution, should the water in the purifying process "accidentally" be released prematurely, as in a flood condition. You say that Richmond County gets its water from the river that Columbia County dumps its wastewater into. In the country, we call that "Branch Kin".

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