Thurmond closes 3 boat ramps

J. Strom Thurmond Lake has closed an additional three boat ramps in cooperation with local law enforcement to help achieve the national individual distancing standards set by the government.

Officials previously closed the visitors’ center and all restrooms, campgrounds and day-use areas (and boat ramps inside those areas) at the reservoir.

In Georgia the Corps closed one ramp:
• Lake Springs

In South Carolina the Corps closed these ramps:
• Clark’s Hill Park
• Parksville

“We must close these ramps because many members of the public continued to congregate in groups in adjacent closed areas, violating standards designed to prevent further spread of the Covid-19 virus,” Scott Hyatt, Thurmond Project Manager said. “In order to keep people from crossing into the off-limits zones from the boat ramps, we placed barriers near the highway, which closes access to the ramps.”

Check the Thurmond website for Corps operated ramps that remain open

Since some facilities at Thurmond Lake are operated by Georgia or South Carolina and others by local agencies, visitors should check with the appropriate state, county or marina regarding the availability of their facilities.

Shore fishing remains open to the public except in closed areas.

“The Corps asks that everyone please take special caution to avoid overcrowding both where you park and where you fish,” Hyatt said.

Hiking remains open. The Bartram Trail Heads are still open at Lake Springs and Petersburg but not West Dam. The Bussey Point trails are also accessible. “While many things are changing, the Corps wants everyone to understand that we keep our commitment to your safety and the safety of our employees and contractors first,” Hyatt said.

“Please help us by following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that mandate social distancing and self-isolation during this crisis. Only together can we slow and ultimately defeat this threat so that we may reopen closed parks and return to providing you the great recreation opportunities you have come to expect from J. Strom Thurmond Lake.”

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Boat ramp rodeo

We’ve been fielding a lot of calls and direct messages regarding our boat ramps recently. Here’s the scoop – the current list is accurate as of Friday, April 3 at noon, HOWEVER, things can change rapidly.

We will do our best to keep the public informed and the situation develops. As a reminder, we have closed campgrounds, day-use areas and all gated boat ramps that have amenities.

You’ll also notice that many of the fee vaults have been bagged over or locked. Not collecting fees prevents our staff from having unnecessary contact with the public during the pandemic. It’s one silver lining in this COVID19 cloud.

In that spirit of giving, we’d also like to offer some advice for responsible use of these ramps. Please, please (pretty please?) exercise good social distancing in the parking lots, on the water, while hiking, walking your pup and any other activity outside your home.

Avoid crowding and do your best to police yourselves and set a good example.

Look for updates on this blog, Facebook, Twitter and the websites below. Thanks again for your understanding, patience and continued safe practices.

Boat ramp sites
Russell: USACE does not operate these boat ramps. They’re operated by state / local governments.

One final note:
If the ramp is not listed on the sites listed above, it is most likely operated by a state or local government. For instance, Mistletoe (Thurmond) is operated by the state of Georgia; Cherokee (Thurmond) is operated by Lincoln County; Green Pond (closed) is operated by Anderson County.

Friendship Ramp (Hartwell) is open. The COVID-19 sign stating the facility is closed has been removed from the entrance gate to avoid confusion.

~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office

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Corps recreation areas closing nationwide

In order to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Corps of Engineers is implementing restrictions on campsite and day-use area availability nationwide. The restrictions apply to Hartwell, Richard. B Russell and J. Strom Thurmond reservoir projects in the following ways.

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The fix is in for the water manager’s page

We truly appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we’ve been diligently working through the IT issues associated with our water manager’s page.

After more than a few hiccups, we’re happy to report the page is up and our lakes are coming down to full pool after a wet and wild February.

(The skinny: In order to make our water manager’s page public, we must frequently patch and update security certificates. As part of the requirement for Department of Defense websites this page has to be encrypted even though does not pass sensitive information. This is not always the case with commercial or other public websites.)

The last patch broke all your bookmarks and the app, because it required insertion of an “s” after the “http.” Now the page is only accessible in this form:

If you paste that URL in your browser it should work (I’ve double checked this on various browsers and computers.)

As we mentioned in July, we are losing rights to that platform for reasons explained in the announcement.

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Double the rain, double the fun?

What’s that saying again about “February showers bringing …”? Well, if there wasn’t already a saying, there is now.

Last month Mother Nature dumped so much rain on the Savannah River Basin we were this close (see above photo by Mike Montone) from having to release water over the spillways at all three of our dams.

And that’s no small feat considering we only recently recovered from Drought Level 1. Indeed, this sort of recovery required Record (with a capital R) level rainfall.

Hartwell trounced all sub-basins in February (and its previous record) with a whopping 10.99 inches versus its 5.09-inch average. Hartwell’s previous February record was 9.46 inches, set in 1956.

Similarly, Thurmond and Russell more than doubled their takes with 9.84 and 9.77 inches compared to their 4.36- and 4.23-inch averages, respectively. They also broke new records.

Russell bested its record for February (7.52 inches), which also occurred in 1956, while Thurmond shattered its record of 7.23 inches in (can you guess the year?) … 1979.

As an aside, Thurmond’s 9.84 inches landed it in the top 3 for most rainfall in ANY month. (Russell and Hartwell’s rainfall for Feb. were sixth & seventh overall for their sub-basins in any month, respectively.)

Hartwell still holds the record for greatest total rainfall in a month at 16.42 inches (September 2004).

All this happened in the shortest, not-normally-wettest month of the year and it didn’t even rain on the bonus day – Leap Day.

There, now that you’re as drenched with stats as the basins were last month, we can move on (sort of).

Our water managers, Stan Simpson & Kat Feingold, did a fantastic job during this hectic month, remaining in constant contact with local meteorologists and the Southeastern Power Administration (SEPA) to adjust the pools to make room for incoming runoff.

It’s a complex dance between assessing the forecasts and anticipating the amount of the remaining room the runoff will occupy in the reservoirs.

Our water managers routinely balance several Congressionally authorized functions of the reservoirs, including water quality, flood risk reduction, hydropower generation and recreation to name a few. However, last month was a particularly tough test as Mother Nature threw everything and the (full) kitchen sink.

They expertly toed the line between generating power and releasing through the dam as necessary.

And even though it’s a brilliant sight, we only release over the spillways as a last resort as it has the potential to cause considerable damage to our downstream stakeholders (and it’s a waste of clean, renewable energy).

Luckily, we didn’t have to do so this time.  

(Shown here, Thurmond Dam the last time we had to release over the spillways Jan. 11, 2016. Photo by Scott Hyatt.)

Looking back, though, it wasn’t just the amount of rain the sub-basins received, but the prevailing conditions as the rain fell and continued to fall.

Evaporation and transpiration rates are low during the winter months. So once the ground is saturated, like say, after a huge rain event on Feb. 6 that dropped 4.7 inches (Hartwell) 3.9 inches (Thurmond) and 3.5 inches (Russell), the rest of the month is gravy for runoff, as long as it rains consistently.

So after all of that, what did February showers bring?

Anxiety and excitement, and locally here in Savannah, azaleas, too.

~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office

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New high-water mapping tool offers flooding estimates

In order to help keep Augusta area residents informed on water levels, we created a new online tool that estimates anticipated high-water inundation along the Savannah River through both Augusta, Georgia, and North Augusta, South Carolina.

The interactive map provides only flooding estimates but the tool is based on historical data.

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Water webpage issues persist: here’s a workaround

UPDATE: As of about 3:45 p.m. today the original URL for the water page (without the “s” after “http”) is now accessible. This means the app should be working for users and all bookmarks should also be working. Please don’t hesitate to contact us or reply with a comment if you experience further issues.

I left our original post below for continuity.

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Ditch the rumors: No need to open spillway gates (yet)

Despite rising water level at Hartwell and Russell reservoirs, enough storage area remains to delay opening the spillway gates – rumors notwithstanding.

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Corps of Engineers: Savannah River to exceed channel capacity within hours

Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expect the Savannah River below Thurmond Dam to exceed channel capacity by this evening due to recent rainfall causing a significant increase in local inflow.

In other words, the Savannah River below Thurmond will see higher and faster flows, with water overflowing the riverbank.

In anticipation of these increased natural flows, Corps officials reduced the water releases from the J. Strom Thurmond Dam (JST) near Augusta, Georgia. By reducing the releases from Thurmond Dam, Corps officials avoid contributing to local flooding risks.

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Hartwell’s teamwork is a powerful thing

Hartwell staff lowers Unit 1's exciter housing into the erection bay.
Hartwell staff lowers Unit 1’s exciter housing into the erection bay.

Last week while most folks were winding down for Super Bowl weekend, hydropower staff at Hartwell were gearing up to keep their generators functional.

Around lunchtime on Thursday (Jan. 30), Nick Ruff (hydropower electrician) and John Clark (hydropower mechanic) smelled something burning.

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