Originally created 09/23/99

Low lake results in alert



Despite robust rainfall from a tropical weather system, Thurmond Lake levels continued to fall this week, prompting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expand low water warnings and reduce hydropower generation.

The 70,000-acre lake's normal pool is 330 feet above sea level. In recent months, the lake dropped to 326, leading to warnings about exposed rocks and shoals. By Tuesday, the level dropped to 323.8 feet.

Under the Corps' drought management policy, hydropower generation is reduced to 4,500 cubic feet per second when levels fall below 324, said Corps spokesman Jim Parker. The average flow is 5,500 cubic feet per second.

Rainfall throughout the Savannah River Basin has been 43 percent of normal since May 1998, and Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd provided little relief, he said. Extended forecasts call for a warmer, drier winter than usual.

Discharges from two other dams upstream -- Hartwell and Russell -- will be proportionately reduced to keep the three lakes in balance. The reduced generation will continue until lake levels begin to recover.

Some boat ramps have been closed and courtesy docks adjacent to some public ramps have also been affected. Mr. Parker reiterated warnings to boaters to be aware of exposed rocks and debris.

This year was a severe one in terms of water supply for Corps reservoirs.

The Southeastern Power Administration, an arm of the U.S. Energy Department that sells electricity from Thurmond Dam and other projects in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, spent millions on alternate power this year.

In 1988 and 1989, when extended drought dropped Thurmond Lake almost 17 feet, SEPA spent $15.5 million on "deficient energy" power. The agency did not purchase any alternative power until this year.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222.