Commander’s Message: Persistent rain deficit triggers pool-balancing shift

From the Commander:

In October I had the opportunity to hold drought workshops for both J. Strom Thurmond Lake and Hartwell Lake to discuss management of the basin and the sustained drought conditions. I’d like to express my gratitude to the stakeholders who attended and remind you it was my pleasure and privilege to have the opportunity to meet people face-to-face. I only wish it would have been under better circumstances. One point I made at the workshop is there is room for improvement in how we communicate to you. With this in mind, we are currently working on new and different ways to deliver information. Our goal is to keep stakeholders informed on the conditions of the basin and what we are doing to manage the lakes.

One of the most recent conditions related to lake levels occurred Oct. 31, 2012 when the lakes declined 14 feet below full pool. As our news release stated, this triggered Drought Level 3. I reminded people at the workshops this condition would prompt us to reduce release rates to 3,100 cubic feet per second from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31. We have accomplished this flow reduction.

Due to continued lack of rain, we have just reached the next significant occurrence that will change how we balance Hartwell and Thurmond. On Nov. 26, 2012 Lake Thurmond dropped to 15 feet below full pool. This means we will now be balancing Hartwell and Thurmond by the percentage remaining in the conservation pool as opposed to a foot-for-foot decline. In other words, Hartwell will decline at a rate of nearly seven feet for every one foot of decline at Thurmond until we get enough rain and runoff to raise the levels above -15 feet. The reason for this is simple: currently Thurmond’s remaining conservation pool depth is a mere three feet of water while Hartwell still has 20 feet of its conservation pool remaining.

I understand this is hard news to receive. Please also know that I share your disappointment and concern for the lack of rain. The unfortunate fact remains that we just are not getting the precipitation and runoff we need to maintain full reservoirs. This month’s rain deficit only contributes more to the problem. We are nearing the end of November – a month that typically receives four inches of rain, and as of this writing we have received little more than an inch. Because the rainfall is spaced out over tenths or one hundreds of an inch at a time, the dry ground has claimed most of that water.

Let me assure you that I will continue to remain transparent with you as our situation unfolds. As part of our effort to better communicate, I prepared a video message (below) to emphasize the importance of runoff (not just rainfall) needed to raise lake levels.

We at the Savannah District will continue to keep you updated on what we are doing to manage the basin and stand ready to help answer your questions. As always, we appreciate your feedback. Please contact with your questions or comments.


Col. Jeff Hall
Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District


About U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District oversees a multimillion 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
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