We are pleased to announce the long-awaited second portion of the Savannah River Basin Comprehensive Study has officially begun.
During a bi-state water caucus meeting at Hartwell Lake Sept. 18, officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District, the Georgia and South Carolina Departments of Natural Resources (DNRs) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) signed an agreement to formally kick-off the study.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, along with legislators from both states, attended the event.
“This signing event represents one step forward in a greater effort to perform a full Comprehensive Study that will examine extensive interactions of water resources, project purposes in the basin,” said Col. Thomas Tickner, commander of the Corps’ Savannah District.
“I would like to thank the resource agencies, TNC, and all the stakeholders for their time, interest and involvement,” Tickner said. “Investing into the Savannah River Basin is well worth our efforts. This basin is an important resource shared among us all, and we all, as stewards of this resource, share responsibility in its upkeep. ”
About the Comp Study
The entire Savannah River Basin Comprehensive Study (Comp. Study) is divided into multiple interim studies. Each portion of the study is cost-shared 50/50 between the federal government and the states of Georgia and South Carolina (non-federal sponsors). The second portion of the study added The Nature Conservancy as an additional non-federal sponsor—something not done in the past.
We completed the first portion of the study in 2006 at a cost of $1.8 million. It included a water supply survey, a flow dataset, and a computer model for the basin to identify how changes in operations affect reservoir levels and downstream conditions. It also included the 2006 Environmental Assessment that updated the Corps’ 1989 Drought Contingency Plan in response to the drought of record from 1998-2002. The first portion of the Comp. Study was crucial in updating the drought plan and reducing outflows earlier in drought at levels 1 and 2 — keeping more water in the reservoirs while still meeting downstream needs.
At a cost of $908,000, the second portion of the study will prepare a drought contingency plan update based on the most recent “drought of record” for the basin, from 2007 to 2009. “Drought of record” refers to the driest drought experienced in the history of the basin.
The study will determine the minimum environmentally acceptable release at Thurmond Dam during drought conditions and the duration a minimum release can be sustained.
Ultimately the second part of the Comp. Study is meant to answer two questions:
1) How low can reservoir releases be reduced at Thurmond Dam during drought conditions?
2) How long can these recommended minimum outflows be sustained before significant impacts would occur to the economy and environment?
“Although Interim Two is only a small part of the overall Comprehensive Study, it represents an important mark of progress,” Tickner said. “It will get us closer to understanding the complexities of the basin, and enable us to determine how far we can stretch our precious fresh-water resource during drought.”
Studies beyond the second interim would collect data necessary to recommend potential changes to the water management plan that are outside of our existing Congressionally-defined authorities.
About the Water Caucus
The Georgia Savannah River Basin Legislative Caucus was formed during the 2013 legislative session and consists of approximately 30 House members and Senators whose districts touch the basin. The common goal of the Caucus is to protect and preserve Georgia’s natural resources and promote the economic development for all people who live within this region. In response to the formation of the Georgia Savannah River Basin Legislative Caucus, South Carolina also formed a similar caucus this year.
The Sept. 18 Water Caucus event brought Georgia and South Carolina legislators together to further the dialogue among policy makers with interests relating to the vast Savannah River Basin. There was a special focus on economic development, the preservation of shared natural resources, and general collaboration between the two states (Source: Georgia House of Representatives website).