Originally created 12/17/00

Low water levels vex boaters



Georgia's largest reservoir keeps shrinking, and the Army Corps of Engineers is trying to keep emerging shoals and navigation hazards marked to protect boaters from unwanted surprises.

But it's not easy.

"Obviously, we can't mark everything," said Project Manager Ken Dial, whose rangers have been busy adding reflective tape to many of the more than 500 buoys scattered across Clarks Hill Lake.

The mammoth reservoir, when at full pool, normally covers 70,000 acres. However, low rainfall over the past year has helped drop the water level from its normal of 330 feet above sea level to 319.3 feet.

The deficit of more than 10 vertical feet has reduced the surface acres of water to a mere 56,000 acres - leaving more than 14,000 acres high and dry.

The consequences include dozens of closed boat ramps and the emergence of shoals and sandbars where boaters least expect to find them.

"We've marked some additional hazards we've found out there, and worked on buoys in terms of adding reflective tape," Dial said. "We've also spent a great deal of time praying for rain."

The Corps is trying to be receptive to complaints from boaters, anglers and waterfowl hunters who use the lake, he said.

"When we get a call on a dangerous area, we send someone out to check on it and possibly mark it," he said. "The criteria we use to mark it is whether it's between a boat ramp and a main navigation channel."

Forecasters believe there is an 80 percent chance the reservoir will return to full pool by March before the spring and summer recreation season opens.

Closed or difficult-to-use boat ramps:

Cherokee (2 ramps closed; 3 open)

Fishing Creek/Hwy. 79

Gill Point

Chamberlain Ferry

Winfield subdivision

Clay Hill

LeRoy's Ferry

Soap Creek Park

Little River Quarry Ramp

Bussey Point

Murray Creek

Double Branches

Calhoun Falls

Broad River Campground

Mt. Pleasant

Modoc Campground

Catfish Ramp

Long Cane Creek Ramp

Highway 28 Access Ramp

Parkway Ramp