New operating agreement advances collaborative management of SRB water resources

Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Southeastern Power Administration (SEPA), and Duke Energy signed a new operating agreement in Elberton, Georgia, Oct. 17 defining how water resources will be shared among the Duke Energy and Corps reservoirs in the Savannah River Basin. This operating agreement will increase drought tolerance within the watershed and promote conservation efforts.

The agreement encompasses the reservoirs in Duke Energy’s Keowee-Toxaway Project (Lakes Jocassee and Keowee) and Bad Creek Reservoir, and the Corps’ reservoirs (Lakes Hartwell, Russell and Thurmond).

“We believe this new agreement represents a balanced approach to managing our respective hydroelectric reservoirs in the Upper Savannah River Basin during droughts,” explained Steve Jester, Duke Energy’s vice president of water strategy, hydro relicensing and lake services. “We worked very closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Southeastern Power Administration to develop the agreement and look forward to continuing the partnership.”

“Good stewardship of the basin’s freshwater resource is one of our highest priorities, and this agreement advances that effort,” said Stan Simpson, Savannah District’s senior water manager. “We are committed partners with SEPA and Duke. We are proud to work with them to provide innovative solutions to operational needs as well as basin needs.”

The new operating agreement supersedes a 1968 agreement put in place to ensure proportionate use of water resources during drought at both the Corps’ reservoirs and Duke Energy’s reservoirs. Since 1968 there have been many changes in both the Corps and Duke Energy systems without modification to the operating agreement. For example, the Corps and Duke Energy have each constructed an additional reservoir since 1968 in the Savannah River Basin. Both reservoirs incorporate pumped storage capabilities that affect operation of their systems. The Corps constructed the Richard B. Russell Pumped Storage Project; Duke Energy constructed the Bad Creek Pumped Storage Project and the Oconee Nuclear Station. The Corps also modified its reservoir operations through implementation of a drought contingency plan, with the latest update occurring in July 2012.

While the new agreement still balances the percent of remaining usable water resources between Duke Energy and Corps reservoirs, it also incorporates Duke Energy’s drought tolerance measures (Low Inflow Protocol) to coordinate drought mitigation measures in the upper basin. This results in a more resilient operation, more prudent water conservation and accounts for the new pumped storage facilities in the basin. The new agreement is consistent with the Keowee-Toxaway Relicensing Agreement, and it allows Duke Energy to make flow releases to support downstream water needs deeper into severe droughts than the 1968 agreement.

The new agreement incorporates the Corps’ 2012 Drought Plan so that minimum outflows from Thurmond Dam will remain the same. The agreement was also designed to be environmentally friendly. An Environmental Assessment demonstrates the new Operating Agreement would result in no significant environmental impacts and represents sound natural resource management practices and environmental standards.

~By Russell Wicke, Corporate Communications Chief

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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