Receding drought hasn't helped lakes but wetter fall is possible

Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 12:33 PM
Last updated 8:27 PM
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The swath of Georgia suffering from “exceptional” and “extreme” drought has receded in recent weeks, leaving the Augusta area wetter and greener but upstate reservoirs as dry as ever.

Concrete dock anchors sit on dry land at an abandoned cove at Thurmond Lake, which is 12.65 feet low. Forecasters say a wetter autumn is possible, because of changing weather patterns.  ROB PAVEY/STAFF
Concrete dock anchors sit on dry land at an abandoned cove at Thurmond Lake, which is 12.65 feet low. Forecasters say a wetter autumn is possible, because of changing weather patterns.

“If you look at the past month, the extreme areas that were over Augusta have slightly improved,” said Nyasha Dunkley, deputy state climatologist. “The August rainfall in that area certainly helped in the short term.”

Augusta recorded its second-wettest August in more than a century, with rainfall of 12.28 inches recorded at Augusta Regional Airport. September rainfall, however, is well below normal, with just 1 inch measured.

Although Augusta got short-term relief, impoundments or reservoirs along the Savannah River did not.

Lakes Thurmond and Hartwell are 12.65 and 12.19 feet low, respectively, and South Carolina’s Lake Jocassee is 14 feet below full pool, with no major rainfall in sight.

Stream flows and soil moisture – both of which combine with rainfall to affect lake levels – remain very low, Dunkley said: “The lake levels are all projected to continue to fall slowly over the next few weeks.”

October and November are traditionally dry, but the newest outlook from the National Climate Prediction Center indicates there could be more rain than usual, she said: “The modeling shows a possibility that a weak El Nino system is likely to develop, which could increase the precipitation for this area.”

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jstatxpyr 09/27/12 - 02:00 pm

Wishing someone could explain to me why the lakes are so low when the Sav river looks pretty nice right now. No one I've talked to can explain the COE's need to drain Thurmond so badly. The lake is nearly inaccessible now by the majority of the ramps...hard to call it a recreational lake when there is no access.

OpenCurtain 09/27/12 - 02:06 pm
Why not

fill the lake up by changing the flood control policy when it rains.

I hate to say this but Austin Rhodes mentioned the Corps Of Eng Mgr. tested the idea of just doing normal discharge during rainy weather until the lake refilled. The River doesn't go up or down but the lake goes up.
I heard him mention it was something to do with a 40+ year old flow policy that badly needed updating.

Darn I hate to quote Austin on anything after the run off election.

Mr. Thackeray
Mr. Thackeray 09/27/12 - 02:22 pm
I just don't get it

Why can't you folks understand? The lake was NOT built for recreation. The Corps is bound by flow rates no matter what happens. You want a full lake? Go to Russel, I do. You want CH full? Pray for rain ABOVE Hartwell. This is true throughout the country, people seem to think because you build a fancy house and dock, you are entitle, you are simply not!

mastersfan 09/27/12 - 03:16 pm
The Corps of Engineers

The Corps of Engineers will just release the water down the Savannah river as usual, and leave our once beautiful lake as it is today. What a shame that the lake cannot be managed.

Riverman1 09/27/12 - 03:55 pm
Savannah River Being Seriously Damaged

Look, no one likes this drought, but let's understand a few things. The portion of the river where the Ironman swim is going to be is being kept 1.5 feet higher for that event. It was announced that the water would not come from the lake. It's coming from the Columbia County portion of the river from Thurmond Dam to Stevens Creek Dam.

Realize how serious THAT is because it's on top of already reduced flows. If you want to see low water far worse than anything experienced at the lake, drive down Point Comfort Rd and look at the cove or any other portion of the river including the Stevens Creek tributary in SC.

The COE has "temporarily" changed the policy and not adhering to official, studied and agreed to releases from the lake in an attempt to get the lake level up.

Fine, as long at this is a temporary measure, but reduced flows affect the river, aquatic plant and animal life tremendously. In addition, the salinity level at Savannah Harbor is affected. All up and down the river government and private industry put demands on the river that require adequate flow. This decision to reduce flows was NOT done with proper studies of the effects. We all have to realize the reduced flows can not continue permanently. Everyone pray for rain upstream.

dwb619 09/27/12 - 04:09 pm

I just wish I had my $450 prop back.

Rob Pavey 09/27/12 - 06:24 pm
just imagine......if there were no lakes or dams

clarks hill is a reservoir - designed to contain floodwater and release it slowly to prevent floods in Augusta; and to use stored water to keep the river flowing during droughts. If you look at rainfall records for the last 18 months in upstate regions, just imagine what it would be like today if there were no lakes or dams upstream.

dstewartsr 09/27/12 - 11:38 pm
Even with a Noah-class deluge

... the COE would still manage to have the lake at Death Valley levels.

Jane18 09/28/12 - 08:44 am
Just a Reservoir?

Mr.Thackeray, if the lake/reservoir was not built for recreation also, then why was it stocked, money-making camping areas made, ramps built and charges to use some of those ramps, the lake dug and designed for fishing and boating?? Oh yeah, there was always making money off of the public designed into this man-made lake!

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