Weekly Declaration and 10-week Projection – 07/03/2013

Every Wednesday, water managers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District release a water declaration and 10-week projection based on inflows to the basin, weather forecasts, hydropower demand, and other factors. Here’s the latest declaration and projection, released July 3, 2013. Check Balancing the Basin on Wednesday afternoons for the latest declarations and projections.

As a reminder, we are posting the declarations here so the public will have access until our Water Management website is live again. As of this writing, we still are unable to determine when we expect the site to be available again. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to have the page live soonest.

Thanks for reading us.

Click here to view Declaration (07/03/2013)

Click here to view 10-week Projection (07/03/2013)

10-week projection for Hartwell Lake, July 3, 2013.

10-week projection for Hartwell Lake, July 3, 2013. (Click graph to view larger)

 

10-week projection for J. Strom Thurmond Lake, July 3, 2013.

10-week projection for J. Strom Thurmond Lake, July 3, 2013. (Click graph to view larger)

 

About US Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District oversees a multi-million dollar military construction program at 11 Army and Air Force installations in Georgia and North Carolina. We also manage water resources across the Coastal Georgia region, including maintenance dredging of the Savannah and Brunswick harbors; operation of three hydroelectric dams and reservoirs along the upper Savannah River; and administration of an extensive stream and wetland permitting and mitigation program within the state of Georgia. Follow us on Twitter @SavannahCorps and on Facebook.com/SavannahCorps
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  • maracanas

    so, in the future will still grow?

  • Joe

    OK, I get that the lake is high and needs to come down. However, looking at the projection, on what planet does it make sense to continue high flows and reduce the level below the guide curve? Does anyone remember 15′ down very recently? Let’s not do that again!

    • http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/ US Army Corps of Engineers

      Joe: If you haven’t seen it already, you may want to check our most recent blog post with the revised declaration issued yesterday (July 9)
      .
      We’re increasing outflows even more because the basin is quickly approaching
      its maximum capacity for flood storage. Yesterday we had to open to spillway
      gates at Hartwell because it received an influx of rain (over 3 inches) in one
      day, putting Hartwell at the top of its flood storage (665 ft-msl). Add to that
      the potential for more rainfall from the approaching tropical storm. It’s
      imperative that we increase outflows now and bring the reservoirs back to guide
      curve (full pool) to allow more flood storage space and prevent what could be catastrophic flooding downstream should one of the dams breech. This is all part of our standard operating procedure for water management. ~Tracy Robillard

      • Joe

        Tracy – I refer you to the 10 week projection as well as the graphs in the article above. Both show Hartwell at 657′ in early September. This is below the guide curve recommendation of 660′. This isn’t rocket science. Everyone understands bringing the level back to the guide curve to allow flood storage capacity. The question is what possible sense could it make to lower the level below the guide curve?

        • http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/ US Army Corps of Engineers

          Joe, guide curve only defines full pool. The first four feet of water under full pool is considered normal levels for the reservoir. Equilibrium is in this four-foot zone. It is impossible to manage reservoirs precisely at one level; therefore, full-pool represents the very top of normal. Hartwell at 656 and Thurmond at 326 represent the bottom of normal. We aim to remain within this range while meeting all seven of the congressionally mandated purposes. Anything lower represents drought condition. Anything higher increases the risk of flooding. The high water events we are experiencing now are a good example of why we don’t manage full pool and up. Lives and property would be at stake.
          ~Russell

          • Joe

            Russell – Condescension is unnecessary. Most of us who own property or are otherwise interested in the lake levels are not idiots. For example, I am a Professional Engineer with many years of plant design, operation and maintenance experience. Similarly, playing the “Safety” card (“lives and property would be at stake”) isn’t necessary. We all understand that floods can hurt people and property and that flood control is a key purpose of the dam system. We also understand that USACE has a sometimes difficult task to meet, as you said, “all seven of the congressionally mandated purposes” (and discussion of what each of us thinks about how good a job congress did in balancing the competing factors is probably not useful here). Nobody is asking USACE to maintain precisely one level. Nonetheless, with all that said, there remain reasonable questions from those of us tired of seeing thousands of docks and boats high and dry as to why, given extended droughts resulting in Hartwell levels 23′ and 15′ below full pool for extended times in recent years, managing the levels at or near the top of the normal ranges wouldn’t make sense. Thank you.

          • http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/ US Army Corps of Engineers

            Joe: I’m not sure I understand your objection, particularly in your last response to Tracy. ~Russell

          • Joe

            Russell – Maybe I’m missing something, but in the graph above for Hartwell, the red dots extending from the blue level line show a projected level of 657′ about 10 weeks out. The green guide curve is at 660′ until mid October. I haven’t checked point-for-point, but these seem to match the 10 Week Projection reached from the link in the article above. My only point is that reducing outflow to control level at the guide curve (rather than 3′ below it) after flood storage capacity is regained would be preferable.

          • http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/ US Army Corps of Engineers

            Thanks for helping me understand Joe. What I think you are saying is, in this case you believe it would be best to set our releases to target full pool (at 660) and not 657. I understand this is preferable to many people in the upper basin. However, we don’t prioritize our releases for the singular purpose of achieving a set level. In other words, we aren’t targeting 657 as a preferred level for September as shown in the graph above. That elevation was merely a prediction (at the time of the declaration) based on what it would take to meet the congressional purposes of the project assuming 85 percent of normal inflows. If the top priority was to keep the reservoir at 660, the project often wouldn’t achieve the purposes for which it was designed and built. I understand this isn’t what many people want to hear, but we’re doing our best to remain transparent in the way we operate. ~Russell

          • jimmy

            Russell. I know we have had several discussions around the priorities of the purposes of the lake but which one would prevent you from at least targeting 660 or 659 for that matter. I understand the minimum flow rates at trigger levels but what would prevent you from starting those minmum levels before the lake dropped 4 feet thus conserving more water. I know in the past you have stated hydro as a priority but as I have explained before, you can’t make more power than what you have in water so holding on to more just limits how much you can make but does extend the amount of time you can make more. I would also like to understand how you were able to drop the flow rate to 3800cfs when the lakes were full and without an EA?
            Thanks.

          • http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/ US Army Corps of Engineers

            Hello Jimmy – thank you for your polite query. This really comes down to following the approved water-control manual. Our operating procedures involve making decisions to accomplish the defined purposes, with levels coming into the equation only as a derivative of the operations until we hit drought levels. (If we would get consistent and normal rainfall, hitting a drought level would be very unlikely.) For example, right now our priority is focused on the purpose of Flood-Risk Management. A goal of this purpose is to evacuate water from the flood-storage levels so we will have room to absorb additional rainfall. As a consequence, we are targeting full pool in this purpose, but that level isn’t targeted as an end to itself. I hear what you’re saying about adjusting the generation schedule to preserve water. Unfortunately that’s not how the manual directs us to operate. As long as the lake levels are in the “normal” range (from full to minus four feet) generation will determine the releases – and we don’t set the generation requirements – SEPA does. Generation, of course, takes a back seat when we’re above full pool or once we reach four feet down. This is why the Comp Study is very important because it is an opportunity to introduce change to the way we operate, if needed. In this case findings in the study could dictate changes, such as redefining drought levels. We do expect the Comp Study to resume very soon – perhaps even this summer. I understand the frustration with the process. We understand it is slow. But these things take coordination of many agencies, not just the Corps. In the end we are obligated to operate in the way in which we said we would, and that is where we get our water control manual. ~Russell

          • Jimmy

            Russell, A couple more questions. Is a copy of the manual availble for public viewing and if so, where can it be found? Also, this is the third time I asked but can you please explain how you were able to lower the outflow to 3800cfs when we were above the trigger points and no EA was approved to do so. You always quote the manual but it does seem you have some flexibility based on those actions. Not complaining because it helped get the lakes full, just a little confused.
            Also, I understand SEPA may set the requirements but only rain dictates how much you can provide so I still don’t understand how SEPA overrides your management of the resource.
            As for the current overfull situation, I fully agree we need to get back to the guide curve which by definition is the gude to full pool. If you are truly left to manage the next 4 feet, then all seven of the puposes need to be used and not the power company thinking they have 4 feet of water to use.

          • http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/ US Army Corps of Engineers

            Jimmy – I’ll ask about the manual. As to the 3,800 question, when we held to 3,800 above the drought trigger there were two circumstances that allowed for this: 1) localized inflows were high immediately downstream of Thurmond at the time, and 2) SEPA’s power demands were being satisfied by other Corps projects in the region that had water in their flood storage levels. Outside of drought triggers we have more flexibility to adjust flows both up and down. The decision allowed us to preserve more water within the operating guidelines of the manual. ~Russell

          • jimmy

            Russell,
            I know you have been busy but any luck on information on the manual?

          • http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/ US Army Corps of Engineers

            I apologize for the delay Jimmy. I asked about the manual and found it isn’t available to the public for purposes of national security. ~Russell

          • jimmy

            Wow, national security? Not sure what all is in this maual by I am only interested in the directions on how the water mangers are to manage the water. Do the water managers have security clearance requirements? I would like to request this info thru the FOIA. Could you tell me which agency controls the document?
            Again, thank you for your response.

          • http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/ US Army Corps of Engineers

            Sure Jimmy – we welcome FOIA requests. That request would come to our (Savannah District) office. Our FOIA officer information is below:

            CESAS-OC
            100 W. Oglethorpe Ave
            Savannah GA 31401-3604

            Phone:
            912-652-5769
            Fax: 912-652-5126

            For general information about FOIA (directions, response times, associated costs, processes, etc.), see the USACE Heaquarters page, located here:
            And, of course, our water manager positions do have security clearance requirements. Hope this helps. ~Russell

          • Jimmy

            Thanks Russel for the info.

    • Brian

      Joe, those projections are based on the assumption that Hartwell will return to 85% of normal inflows at the end of the next 10 weeks. Given the current inflows and amount of water now stored above Hartwell in the mountain lakes and streams, plus the likelihood of additional rains, I doubt we will be seeing much less than full pool anytime soon.

      • Joe

        Brian – Wonderful. Thanks for the clarification. Please consider keeping a bit extra (slightly above the guide curve – to the extent there’s any flexibility in the SOP) going into the fall. Sure would be a shame to see the low levels again after all this rain finally came.