Thurmond Lake level might not drop as much as planned

The Army Corps of Engineers hopes to adjust the extent to which Thurmond Lake will be lowered to allow contractors to complete $3.9 million in renovations to spillway gates.

The plan announced last week called for keeping the lake at 326 feet above sea level - or four feet below full pool - for up to 24 months while workers repaired and repainted welds and performed other tasks using federal stimulus dollars.

"We realized, after we looked at it a little more, that we may not have to keep it that low," corps spokesman Billy Birdwell said. "We think we can work with the contractor and probaby keep it up to as high as 328 in the summer."

The reservoir is typically lowered to 326 in winter months to create storage space for anticipated rainfall. That practice has come under more scrutiny in recent years as residents and lake-area businesses have suffered in years when drought has lowered the lakes on the Savannah River.

Mr. Birdwell said the 326 level will be maintained through sometime in February, after which the corps can move additional water from Lake Hartwell to raise Thurmond as high as 328 for the summer recreation season.

The $3.9 million project to repair welds on spillway gates involves work at both Thurmond and Lake Russell. Contractors expect the work at Thurmond to take up to two years, with the Russell renovations taking as long as four years.

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