About this time in 2013 I began spring by noting forecasters expected a dry summer with continual reductions in reservoir levels. Those predictions became laughable in July when we made only the second operational spillway release in the history of the Hartwell Dam; and when all three reservoirs experienced levels well into flood storage.
No one really complained about too much water, however.
In spite of my poor showing last year, I did some research and will attempt another prediction of the coming months at lakes Hartwell, Russell and Thurmond.
For this column, I consulted NOAA’s website and met with our water managers. As before, this is a prediction, not prophesy. Some years ago, I read a sign near Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone National Park: “We predict the next eruption, we don’t schedule them.”
During the next 10 weeks, the reservoirs should remain near or even above summer guide curve even though they should not be that high until April 1. The continuing rains, though small, generate 80 to 85 percent of normal runoff due to heavy ground saturation. Long range predictions show equal chances of above normal rainfall and below normal rainfall.
“That just means you’re guessing, right Birdwell?” you may ask. Not completely. Conditions in the oceans indicate some mix of La Niña and El Niño conditions. This usually leads to a “normal” rainfall season.
Normal is good. The reservoirs have been only a little below or well above guide curve for 10 months. Normal rainfall will keep them there. Due to continuing work on the gates at Thurmond Dam and Russell Dam, we must not exceed summer full pool at either location. This means we may need to store some extra water in Hartwell Lake and release it gently through the system.
In addition, fish spawning season will fall sometime in April when we make strong efforts to keep the reservoirs at a constant level. This enhances fish spawning which will lead to better fishing 2 – 3 years later. (More on that in a later posting.)
Okay, that’s what I think you can expect during the upcoming weeks and months. We should begin summer recreation season in very good shape. Where we go after that will require watching and waiting.
By the way, if you haven’t visited the national treasure that is Yellowstone National Park, I recommend the trip – between visits to the Savannah District reservoirs, of course.
~Billy Birdwell, Corporate Communications Office