Water management forum draws Thurmond Lake residents

Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 9:01 PM
Last updated 10:58 PM
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McCORMICK, S.C. — Water supply and water quality concerns rise to the top of the priority list during extended droughts, the Army Corps of Engineers’ district commander told Thurmond Lake area residents Wednesday.

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Col. Jeffrey Hall, the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers' Savannah District, discusses water management issues during a town hall meeting Wednesday night that brought about 300 people to McCormick Middle School.  ROB PAVEY/STAFF
Col. Jeffrey Hall, the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers' Savannah District, discusses water management issues during a town hall meeting Wednesday night that brought about 300 people to McCormick Middle School.

“I don’t think that’s very well understood by the public,” Col. Jeffrey Hall said during a town hall meeting to discuss the reservoir’s receding levels.

The water management program for Thurmond is based on “authorized purposes” including flood risk management, navigation, hydropower, recreation and fish and wildlife – in addition to providing drinking water and maintaining a river flow sufficient to assimilate treated industrial and municipal wastewater.

“The question that comes up is, with all those authorized purposes, how do you balance the needs?” he said.

A full lake – with a pool of 330 feet above sea level – makes it possible to fulfill all those purposes. But as water levels fall and flows into the river are reduced, water supply and water quality are on top.

Thurmond Lake – now 13.6 feet below full pool – is expected to fall to the 14-foot-low mark by early November, triggering a new level of the corps’ drought management plan that will reduce flows into the Savannah River to a weekly average of 3,100 cubic feet per second – the minimum needed to satisfy downstream needs.

The lake’s drainage basin, encompassing 3,254 square miles, has a 20.8-inch rainfall deficit over the past year, meaning it will require sustained precipitation to help it recover.

The long-range forecast shows some potential for relief, including a possibility of a weak El Nino weather pattern that could increase the chance of above-average rainfall from January through March.

Hall also told the crowd of about 300 people that funding has been obtained from South Carolina and other participants to continue the Savannah River Basin Comprehensive Study, which will focus on drought relief.

The region, he added, has a long history of droughts that include a “drought of record” in 1986-89, followed by two more from 1998 to 2002 and 2007-09.

Wednesday’s meeting was at McCormick Middle School.

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Riverman1 10/25/12 - 05:32 am
Thanks, Col. Hall, for

Thanks, Col. Hall, for explaining it well. When the lake’s drainage basin, encompassing the 3,254 square miles, gets enough rain to raise the moisture level of the soil, the water coming into the lake will improve. Simple as that.

soapy_725 10/25/12 - 06:30 am
Funding for studies will continue. Of course.

Talking always accomplishes more that action. And the Corps beat goes on, the beat goes on. If it makes anyone feel less deceived, Fontana Lake in NC is down. Does the government manage the TVA as well? Of course.

southern2 10/25/12 - 07:28 am
Col. Hall mentioned the 2012

Col. Hall mentioned the 2012 Congressional Request to to reduce the lake discharge to 3100cfs anytime the lake drops 2' below full pool. I wonder if this will ever be implemented? Also heard great questions from the audience.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 10/25/12 - 09:50 am
Waiting and waiting

It does seem a bit absurd to wait until the lake drops to 14 feet below full pool to slow the release rate down to 3,100 cubic feet per second (CFS). If 3,100 CFS satisfies all downstream needs, why not implement that flow rate earlier, like when the lake is, say, four or five feet below full pool?

Riverman1 10/25/12 - 11:04 am
3,100 CFS that lasts too long

3,100 CFS that lasts too long would change the character, depth, width, wildlife of the river and salinity near Savannah.

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