Shutdown after rain conserves reservoirs

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Flows through Thurmond Dam were halted Saturday afternoon as part of an effort to conserve water in upstate reservoirs.

"Right now it's completely turned off," said Billy Birdwell, the spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The decision was made after heavy rainfall pushed the Savannah River and its tributaries below the dam to near flood stage Saturday, offering the corps a rare opportunity to avoid releasing water downstream to satisfy Augusta industries and municipal intakes.

"We're trying to use this adaptive management process everyone is talking about," Mr. Birdwell said, adding that the dam will be shut down for about a day and a re-evaluation today could yield a longer shutdown if downstream flows remain adequate.

Also on Saturday, a flood warning was issued for Stevens Creek at Modoc, S.C., affecting Edgefield and McCormick counties until this afternoon. A line of thunderstorms that moved through the Augusta area Saturday brought as much as two inches of rain to some areas, causing the river to rise quickly. It was expected to crest to 19.4 feet Saturday afternoon, which would be nearly a half foot over flood stage, affecting mostly farmland along Stevens Creek north of the U.S. Highway 23 bridge near Modoc.

Thurmond Lake, which has a normal full pool of 330 feet above sea level, was at 316.46 on Saturday -- or more than 13 feet low.

In recent weeks, residents, real estate developers, marina operators and others have campaigned for more reactive management programs that could help refill the reservoir -- or at least slow its decline during drought.

One of those remedies includes closer monitoring of local rainfall and subsequent dam flow adjustments.

In an average year, the corps releases about 9,000 cubic feet per second of flow into the Savannah River. In recent months, as part of a drought management program, releases were cut to 3,600 cubic feet per second and were briefly reduced as low as 3,100 cubic feet per second.

Any further flow reductions could jeopardize downstream water users. Mr. Birdwell said, however, that when there is plenty of local rain keeping the lower river full, it offers the corps an opportunity to capitalize on that rainfall by releasing less from the lakes and keeping more water in the reservoirs.

Saturday's shutdown of the dam wasn't unprecedented, but it was a rare occurrence, he said. He did not know the last time such an action was taken.

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

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As It Is
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As It Is 03/01/09 - 03:18 am
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Any positive steps to

Any positive steps to increase the reserves are appreciated. Paying closer attention to the rain fall, etc. and adjusting the flow accordingly is certainly the right thing to do for our area, the environment and is much better maintenance than in the past.

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 03/01/09 - 06:39 am
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Wow. This concept of slowing

Wow. This concept of slowing the rate of release from Thurmond to compensate for the heavy down pour actually makes sense. Good move, corps. This makes once in a row that you've made understandable decisions.

Riverman1
94244
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Riverman1 03/01/09 - 06:56 am
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Nothing new here, folks.

Nothing new here, folks. Understand this same technique and policy has been going on for a good while. The river level at Stevens Creek is monitored. Anytime Stevens Creek floods the policy is to shut down the flow from Thurmond Dam and it has been in effect for the past 5 years. I disctincly remember the last occurence about 5 years ago. The problem is if the rain/flooding is further downstream, say at the 50 mile mark, the flow can't be stopped without causing the river to be dry above that area all the way back to the dam. No easy solution, folks. Note on weather maps that the north GA and SC watershed for the river is in a severe drought that the Corps of Engineers has described as the worst ever. Again, it is such a rare occurence when we have flooding in the 12 miles between Thurmond and Stevens Creek dams, that this shutdown is rarely possible.

Fishboy
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Fishboy 03/01/09 - 07:06 am
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Sure make for good PR when it

Sure make for good PR when it does happen, though, hey Riverman? Kudos to the Corps!

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 03/01/09 - 07:22 am
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Dang Bush! If he hadn't sent

Dang Bush! If he hadn't sent all that rain to New Orleans (Katrina) the weather patterns would have supplied Augusta with the necessary rain over the past 3 years. Maybe O will do better. He's off to a good start.

crackertroy
540
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crackertroy 03/01/09 - 07:38 am
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Bush probably told them to
Unpublished

Bush probably told them to open up the dam too. I hope it stays closed for a while. I was going to buy a jet ski, but not with the lake drying up! In fact, I keep seeing more and more jet skis and boats parked outside of peoples homes with "for sale" signs on them. Makes me wonder.

pofwe
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pofwe 03/01/09 - 08:52 am
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Behold! The power of Austin

Behold! The power of Austin Rhodes.

Lost In Translation
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Lost In Translation 03/01/09 - 09:22 am
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It's amazing how the drought

It's amazing how the drought is only effecting the Army Corp run lakes!!! Gee I wonder why that is? Bureaucratic BS maybe? Maybe it's about time for the government to let someone else take control of the lakes, rivers, and dams, and put an end to the dam problem!
And yes I realize I misspelled dam, that was the point! Hey patriciathomas, good point! (It's all a conspiracy!) Crackertroy, wait until the begining of summer, you'll see even cheaper prices on jet skis. But the fact is, you can ride them on the river! Buy one and use the Augusta boat ramp and enjoy the hell out of yourself downtown!

Fishboy
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Fishboy 03/01/09 - 09:37 am
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LMAO, pofwe! Austin made it

LMAO, pofwe! Austin made it rain?

My_2nd
0
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My_2nd 03/01/09 - 10:03 am
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if they would have been doing

if they would have been doing this all along and clarks hill would still be full.

pofwe
5
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pofwe 03/01/09 - 10:04 am
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Fishboy, Austin hosted the

Fishboy, Austin hosted the Chief- Engineer-of-the-Corps, (?), the other day. I contribute his exposure to the public's concerns and questions as a reason for this logical, "flow stop." 10-4? ;-)

Fishboy
29
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Fishboy 03/01/09 - 10:08 am
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Oh. Guess you didn't know

Oh. Guess you didn't know this isn't the first time the Corps cut back on flow due to rain, just the first time they immediately publicized it. Glad Austin had Col. Kertis on the show, but I don't think he single-handedly caused them to change operations...

Rob Pavey
552
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Rob Pavey 03/01/09 - 10:23 am
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this has been done

this has been done periodically and was done most recently in december. but stopping the flow means the corps also has to say 'no' to the southeastern power administration that keeps asking them to generate more and more electricity.

aaa
2
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aaa 03/01/09 - 10:35 am
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Is there new leadership at

Is there new leadership at the Corps? This action makes too much sense, maybe someone goofed.

Riverman1
94244
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Riverman1 03/01/09 - 10:37 am
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Please folks, read my earlier

Please folks, read my earlier post. Nothing has changed. Fishboy, how can we get that across to everyone? LOL

pofwe
5
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pofwe 03/01/09 - 10:57 am
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I once was blind, but now, I

I once was blind, but now, I (do) see. Or docee, Thankye.

Tell it like it is
35
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Tell it like it is 03/01/09 - 12:05 pm
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Austin did a good interview

Austin did a good interview with the corps, however the answer is to write your Congressman and Representives to change the laws the corps have to adhere to.

momofthree
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momofthree 03/01/09 - 12:19 pm
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Sorry to burst bubbles people

Sorry to burst bubbles people Austin only thinks he has the power to make it rain......................No wait you were just kidding, I get it now.

Little Lamb
49246
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Little Lamb 03/01/09 - 12:48 pm
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Now Riverman and Fishboy say

Now Riverman and Fishboy say that the Corps have been using this management technique OFTEN in the last five years. But take a look at the last sentence in Pavey's article: "He (Billy Songbird) did not know the last time such an action was taken."

Little Lamb
49246
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Little Lamb 03/01/09 - 12:49 pm
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And while you're at it, take

And while you're at it, take a look at the next to last sentence: "Saturday's shutdown of the dam wasn't unprecedented, but it was a rare occurrence, he (Songbird) said."

Fishboy
29
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Fishboy 03/01/09 - 01:01 pm
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Thanks for putting words in

Thanks for putting words in my mouth, Little Lamb, but NEITHER of us used the word "OFTEN." Don't blame us for the fact that the Corps spokesman doesn't know they just did this in December 2008 and in March 2007,

mooseye
276
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mooseye 03/01/09 - 01:48 pm
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Everyone always has a better

Everyone always has a better idea!

Little Lamb
49246
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Little Lamb 03/01/09 - 02:28 pm
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Well, I would say that the

Well, I would say that the period between March 2007 and December 2008 was TOO LONG not to have closed the gates during rain events. Now, Iceman has said that examined the web site of the Corps of Engineers for Thurmond Dam and did not see any days of zero discharge in December, 2008. I don't know who is correct, but Billy Birdsong has been in his position for many years, and for him to say he does "not know" the last time the gates were closed during a rainfall event would lead me to believe it might not have been done in December, 2008, even though we had record rainfall that December.

Riverman1
94244
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Riverman1 03/01/09 - 02:34 pm
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Little Lamb, I said the

Little Lamb, I said the policy has been in effect for about 5 years. I remember when the policy changed to measure the river at Stevens Creek. I also said I remember it being done once before about 5 years ago right after the policy started. If others know of it being used more, fine, but I don't. It can only be done when we have heavy rain between Stevens Creek Dam and Thurmond Dam. This is the heaviest rain I recall here in years. Remember my example of why it can't be done for rain further downstream. It would leave the river dry up to the point where the rain occurred. Also, remember the rain before Stevens Creek Dam has to be extremely heavy for the release from Thrumond to be reduced to zero. For instance, currently 3600 cfs is being released. That equals a lot of rain which we rarely have.

The Knave
24
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The Knave 03/01/09 - 03:03 pm
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Well, well, patricathomas has

Well, well, patricathomas has offered today two new installments of her customary inane drivel. She seems to have so much time to prepare her bloviating screeds, it would be wonderful if only she had something worthwhile to say. --- patriciathomas would do well to remember that: ""The empty vessel makes the loudest sound." (W. Shakespeare)

thefish
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thefish 03/01/09 - 03:05 pm
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Great call Corps!! Now show

Great call Corps!!

Now show us how good you are at using adaptive management every time we have a good rain. Three times in 5 years is not good enough.

Lou Stewall
374
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Lou Stewall 03/01/09 - 03:39 pm
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This adaptive management is a

This adaptive management is a wonderful treat for the sheeple!!! It has to be embarrassing that there was no rain deficit for 2008 and the brainiacs lost 8 feet of lake water with a hands-off approach. Maybe they can surpass a previous feat: 3 ft. up with 5 inches of rain (in my gage now!), as Robby reported has been done before.

lakewater1
0
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lakewater1 03/01/09 - 05:30 pm
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I think I've got it- over

I think I've got it- over flood stage triggers adaptive management! It used to be called flood control, but now it is called adaptive management.

Little Lamb
49246
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Little Lamb 03/01/09 - 07:16 pm
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RM says, "This is the

RM says, "This is the heaviest rain I recall here in years." I live about a mile and a half from RM and I had heavier rains in December, 2008. The Corps was asleep at the switch then (maybe everyone was taking Christmas leave for three weeks). Hopefully they'll shut the gates each time it rains and see how everybody makes out.

Riverman1
94244
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Riverman1 03/01/09 - 07:26 pm
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Little Lamb, again ad nausea,

Little Lamb, again ad nausea, you can't shut the gates unless the rain is going at a rate that creates a flow of at least 3600 cfs per day at Stevens Creek Dam. The rain thus has to be causing flooding before that dam. If the rain is in South Augusta and you shut off flow, you would have a dry river back up to the dam. THUS THE ONLY TIME YOU CAN SHUT OFF THE DAM FLOW IS WHEN YOU HAVE VERY HEAVY RAIN AT LEAST EQUAL TO WHAT THE CALCULATED FLOW IS BEFORE THE STEVENS CREEK DAM. Why is this idea so hard to grasp? What's happening is that some want another way to fill the lake other than from the watershed in north GA and SC where the drought is still classified as extreme. It simply isn't possible.

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