As Thurmond gate repairs end, water managers can target full summer pool

Drivers crossing the Thurmond Dam may have noticed two-way traffic resumed this week. That means workers finished the gate repairs on the dam. The one-way traffic ensured safety for workers. One-way began in February 2010, ended in the summer of 2013 but returned in January 2014.

The completion of the gate repairs means more than just easier traffic across the dam. It also means we no longer need to hold Thurmond Lake below full summer pool.

Worker safety dictated we hold the level 1 to 2 feet below full summer pool, (at about 328 to 329 feet above mean sea level) during the years of repair.

With the work complete, water managers can once again target for 330 ft-msl.

Of course, reservoir levels still remain subject to rainfall. Water managers, however, can resume following the Savannah District Water Manual.

“When inflows are sufficient we target full pool,” Stan Simpson, a Savannah District water manager, said.

Currently, Hartwell and Thurmond lakes almost balance with both less than 2 feet below full summer pool.

— Billy Birdwell, Corporate Communications Office

About US 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 Facebook.com/SavannahCorps
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31 Responses to As Thurmond gate repairs end, water managers can target full summer pool

  1. Ferris says:

    California is experiencing what many consider their drought of record. The map shows most of the state under Extreme or Exceptional Drought, both Short and Long Term.

    In addition, the map shows projects in our SEPA system, other than Russell and Thurmond, under Abnormally Dry Intensity, both Short and Long Term, which suggests an inability to provide little power beyond their contract commitments.

  2. Ferris says:

    Jerry, obsession with constantly full lakes has blinded your objectivity. Refuted claims and your behavior confirm desperate validation attempts. The time has passed for you to acknowledge the infeasibility of the idea. Here are some recent examples.

    a) Attempting to frighten downstream users about running out of water
    b) Equating a temporary deviation from 3800 cfs to 3600 cfs with lakes 10 feet below full pool and falling fast to 3600 cfs beginning when lakes fall to just below full pool
    c) Claiming the temporary deviation means your idea does not require an EIS and demanding implementation without a study
    d) Insisting that comparatively small SEPA projects support the massive SRB during droughts, even though the SRB represents half the capacity of the 10 project GA-AL-SC system
    e) Resorting to hyperbole and generalities rather than verifiable facts
    f) Refusing to dialogue when your claims are refuted
    ~ Ferris

  3. Boar Master says:

    aint no lake xpert but movin dock 2′ low poor planing my buddy laff a u say gonna be dry sumer

  4. Fish1 says:

    Now that the dam is repaired, it will be great to see 660 on Lake Hartwell’s 10-Week Projection in addition to the Rule Curve column effective 4 Apr, with us currently at @658.13. Looking today toward the Memorial Day weekend, I am quite disappointed to see 657.7 projected. I spent today moving my neighbor’s and my docks in and out as needed to match this week’s water level and our bets on the projections. 660 will be wonderful, and especially if the Corps holds the Rule Curve thru the 4th and Labor Day and into the Fall.

  5. Jerry Clontz says:

    The following article from Michael Reagan could well be prophetic for the SRB unless we stop releasing more water from our reservoirs than is being provided by rain. If you look at the way the reservoirs are being managed out West they are not looking at waste of water. They look at all kinds of other concerns and let those dictate release rates rather than trying to conserve fresh water. Admittedly there has to be a balance but this shows what can happen with one extreme; the same one we keep warning about here.

    California is running out of water. The Bible, in Matthew 5:45, says the rain falls on the just and the unjust and the same goes for the drought. According to Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at NASA: “NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.”
    And last winter’s “rainy season” didn’t help much either. January was the driest since people started collecting raindrops in 1895. Famiglietti adds that all the water currently stored in the state — “snow, river, and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014. That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir.”
    Since farmers can’t depend on the clouds for crop moisture, they’ve increased groundwater pumping and as a result in the Central Valley land is literally sinking, in some areas by as much as a foot. You may be thinking that’s planning ahead; when it finally starts to rain, farmer Jones will have a lake. But that’s not how it works. And no one is predicting rain.
    In his Los Angeles Times piece, Famiglietti wisely resists the temptation to blame the drought on global warming, which made him much more credible in my book. His first recommendation is to begin mandatory water rationing throughout the state. After that he loses me.
    Famiglietti wants to add to the state’s bureaucracy by creating “regional groundwater sustainability agencies” that will adopt plans. Then he wants a task force to “brainstorm” long-term water management strategies.
    Then we really part company. His final recommendation is: “Finally, the public must take ownership of this issue. This crisis belongs to all of us — not just to a handful of decision-makers.” This is completely wrong. California is a democracy and for the past 40 years elected officials have done zero planning for long-term drought and have not built a new dam or reservoir since 2000.
    I’m certainly willing to do my part and ration my use of water until the rain comes again. But I have no intention of accepting responsibility for the inaction and inability to set priorities demonstrated by state water authorities and elected officials.

    • Ferris says:

      ” have a different approach to managing the basin than . Just because it is different does not make it wrong” or mean there are not priorities. Quoted from below.

      Jerry, my research indicates you are unrealistic with statements about running out of downstream water. What is your data?

      OBJECTIVES
      A major USACE objective is to avoid reaching the bottom of conservation storage, an objective that supersedes lower pool elevations even with substantial generation available. Protecting downstream water supply does not appear to drive reducing it.

      WATER EXHAUSTION
      Estimated exhaustion of water for downstream needs during extreme droughts does not occur until 9 years after reaching the bottom of conservation storage (CS).

      AVAILABLE STORAGE
      Percent of Total- Conservation Storage and Inactive Pool
      42.5% Conservation Storage
      57.5% Inactive Pool
      100.0% Total Storage

      AVAILABLE GENERATION
      Percent of Total- Turbine Releasable and Sluice Gate Pools
      70.5% Turbine Generation Pool
      14.4% Turbine No Load Pool (provides aeration)
      14.5% Sluice Gates Pool
      0.6% Heel below Sluice gates
      100.0% Total Storage

      The Turbine Releasable Pool is 99.6% larger than CS alone.
      The Turbine Generation Pool is 65.9% larger than CS alone.

      DISSOLVED OXYGEN
      The combination of Thurmond aerating turbines and a lower lake level that brings DO rich surface water into the primary turbine withdrawal zone helps mitigate DO issues, even without DO injection. The result provides survival quantities of moderately impaired downstream flowrates for many years after exhausting CS.

      REFERENCES
      Final EA DL4 Operations 2011- Page 3, Tables 1, 2, 15; Figures 4, 5, 6
      Duke Energy Operating Agreement 2014, Appendix L, Tables 9, 10, 11

  6. Jerry Clontz says:

    For Russell,
    I am not propagating misinformation. I am simply stating what the experience from the past is and what we found out in the massive experiment of 2008. I am also quoting what the Corps has said in their documents supporting how they would terminate each of the 3 lakes if it came to that.
    You are propagating misinformation when you make it sound like we have a choice in how long and how bad a drought will be. In a severe drought like the three of the last decade, starting 3600 earlier in the sequence cuts down on the overall time down streams are at this low a flow because you won’t have as big a deficit to correct for when the rains return. Until we learn how to make water independent of rain, nature is in control here. Not the Corps, not me, not you. All we are suggesting is a less damaging approach than allowing the lakes to drop way low before taking corrective measures.
    I have already ended responses to Ferris for this discussion. This ends my responses to you for this discussion. We are not accomplishing anything by repeating ourselves over and over again. I have a different approach to managing the basin than the corps does. Just because it is different does not make it wrong. As Save Our Lakes Now has stated time and time again the perspective of lake stakeholders is different from that of the other stakeholders. This back and forth makes that abundantly clear. The corps has made the claim numerous times that when any of their stakeholders yells fowl they stop. That is not true for recreational interests. When we yell it is like the Corps has gone deaf.

    • Ferris says:

      Jerry, your claim that “starting 3600 earlier in the sequence cuts down on the overall time down streams are at this low a flow” is simply more misinformation. My “fancy model” estimates that Alt 4 of the new study results in 3600 cfs and lower flows about 4 times longer than under the current plan, or for 2.3 continuous years. This is another example of why it is up to you to demonstrate the beneficial and detrimental impacts of your plan. ~Ferris

  7. Jerry Clontz says:

    Only out of respect, here is one last comment. It appears to me that the major reason you and I have different views is you think pouring more water through the dam than comes in from rain is normal operation. We do not. Such behavior neglects the value of fresh water and assumes we can somehow best mother nature. We suggest matching rainfall and release rates unless and until you reach drought conditions at which point you give the river 3600cfs which is more than is coming in from rain. In our opinion waiting until the lakes are so low that recreation is destroyed is not normal. In our opinion the control should not be lake level but rather amount of rain entering the basin.

    • Ferris says:

      Jerry, the dams themselves are an unnatural attempt to best Mother Nature. It is up to you to demonstrate the beneficial and detrimental impacts of your plan, such as the increased number of days above different boat ramp levels and detrimental downstream impacts during the drought of record. Maximizing lake levels without regard for project purposes does not constitute a viable plan. By the way, redefining “normal operation” will literally take an act of congress, and I am correctly using the term. ~Ferris

      • Ferris says:

        Jerry, to clarify my discussion, you have an idea. Only a preliminary evaluation with supporting data will determine viability. ~Ferris

      • Jerry Clontz says:

        As promised no further comment

        Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

  8. Jerry Clontz says:

    Ferris,
    My thinking is based on past operating experience and simple logic.:
    1) in the drought of 2008 the corps sought input from all stakeholders as to who would have a problem if the release rates were reduced below 3600cfs. When the corps failed to publish the results of the responses we obtained all the responses using FOIA request. There were over 250 responses and aside from NOIA expressing fear there MIGHT be a problem, no one else had a problem. This included replies from all the industry below Augusta, all the various city water suppliers, fish and wild life, etc. etc. As an engineer you should appreciate the fact that a major test of the whole system over this extended period of time far outweighs computer simulations and short term data. In other words actual experience showed 3600cfs can be handled for an extended period of time.
    2) the Corps put out a plan on how they would handle failure to maintain adequate conservation pools in a drought. They showed destroying Russell first followed by Thurmond, etc. The main point of their plan pertinent to this discussion is they stated 3600 cfs from Thurmond while all this is going on would have no significant environmental impact and no EIS was required.
    3) since we can not manufacture water we are totally dependent on what nature supplies. Simple laws of supply and demand dictate that excessive releases beyond what nature supplies can and probably will at some time in the future bankrupt our system.

    • Ferris says:

      Jerry,
      1) Approving a temporary deviation for extreme conditions does not equate to approving the same deviation for normal conditions as you propose. The temporary approval reduced release rates from 3800 cfs to 3600 cfs as Thurmond fell below 320 feet, a temporary impact of ~5%. I appreciate the benefit of computer simulations testing lower release rates over periods when they did not occur, particularly for the current study. The best way to evaluate environmental impacts for your proposal over ten years requires computer simulations. Your plan also requires simulations for flood mitigation over maybe 100 years because of the extended time operating at the bottom of flood storage.
      2) The 2011 DL4 Drought Operations evaluated only DL4 release rates dating back to the 1989 DCP. The 1989 DCP established the 3600 cfs you mention for DL4, so this was not an impact change. The 2011 DL4 DO reduced Nov-Jan releases to 3100 cfs and defined the operating procedure. As you know, a Finding of No Significant Impact means no impacts 20% greater than the base case. It seems illogical to compare 3600 cfs during DL4 with 3600 cfs during normal operation.
      ~Ferris

    • US Army Corps of Engineers says:

      Jerry – you’re propagating misinformation. And I’ve addressed this same misinformation in the past. The state and federal agencies have been clear that 3,800 cfs over the long-term does have impacts. Here is a direct quote from one of my responses to you eight months ago on this same claim:

      “Many of our state and federal partners would dispute your certainty that 3,600 cfs or even 3,800 cfs, is sufficient over the long term. We know the Savannah River system downstream can cope with 3,800 cfs over periods of time – but it is certainly not ideal, and we don’t know at what point significant damages occur. Indeed, there have been indicators it is unhealthy for the ecosystem. For example, we have seen 3,800 cfs at prolonged periods result in spikes in the water column salinity that exceeded congressionally mandated freshwater thresholds needed at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. A big reason we are conducting Interim 2 of the Comp Study stems from concerns about violating EPA’s Water Quality Standards for consumers downstream. There are grave concerns about the mounting impacts this release rate can have over time. All agree, based on limited scientific data, there are too many unknowns. The entire purpose of our current ongoing study is to eliminate these unknowns.”

      I will add that long-term flow restrictions at 3,800 cfs also has been shown to have water-quality impacts that affect species that are crucial links to the local ecosystem. ~Russell

  9. Jerry Clontz says:

    Here we go round an round. This will be my last comment on this issue. Waste is what is happening when you go beyond preservation of fish and wildlife, generation of clean energy from every drop of rain that falls, and adequate water supply. So far as recreation, that around the lakes comes at a huge cost in infrastructure. The major difference is we see no reason to throw more water to the ocean (destruction of fresh water) than is necessary to take care of the other entities.
    So far as cost of electricity, it costs no more from the other 7 sources SEPA has than if it is produced in the SRB. Besides, there is no fairness to put all the cost burden, assuming a real cost is involved, on the people around the lakes. It is not their fault nature is not supplying adequate rain.
    One major point that continues to be overlooked is the lakes are not hoarding water. Every drop of rain that falls goes to the river. If anyone is getting more than their share of water it is the river. We certainly agree that is justified when severe damage could occur because of low river flows. That is why we suggest the Corps never go below 3600cfs.

    • Ferris says:

      Jerry, what data support a less than significant impact for your plan that holds release rates at 3600 cfs when lake levels drop below full pool? It appears that the current study provides parameters that help determine rate reductions to the limit before requiring an EIS. It also appears that Alternate 4 (A4), which is less severe than your plan, requires an EIS and mitigation. As a Chemical Engineer you already know the requirements, so what are your impact numbers and what data support them?

      Consider that the 2012 DCP has moderate impacts greater than 12% that are related to flowrates, including for striped bass habitat in the Augusta Shoals. For the current study, A4 reduces rates to 3600 cfs at DL1 or 4 feet below your summer level. The 2012 DCP rate is 4000 cfs at DL1 when the BI is 10% or less. For an order of magnitude estimate, 3600 cfs is 10% less than 4000 cfs. Impacts are cumulative, and when combined with the previous 12% the impact becomes 21%. However, the impact doubles for the flow split before the Augusta shoals when holding the Augusta Canal flow rate steady, making the combined impact 30%. A significant impact of 20% or higher requires additional study, an EIS, and mitigation. ~Ferris

      BI = Basin Indicator
      DCP = Drought Contingency Plan
      DL1 = Drought Level 1
      EIS = Environmental Impact Statement

  10. US Army Corps of Engineers says:

    Waste isn’t the term I would use, since the release of water directly serves four of the authorized purposes: preservation of fish and wildlife, generation of clean energy, water supply to municipalities and industry, and when at average elevations flood risk mitigation. We could even suggest a fifth purpose, at least indirectly, could be served: recreation downstream.

    Based on our past conversations on this blog, I do believe sufficient evidence was produced to show that the taxpayer – especailly from a national perspective – gets best return for their dollar with our current operation. ~Russell

  11. Jerry Clontz says:

    Obviously we disagree on several points. How the Corps can justify wasting fresh water is one point. And so far as definition of recreation it seems to me the Corps needs to ask Congress for a definition since Congress set that requirement. I have a feeling they would agree with our interpretation. The concept we have is that the Corps is working for the taxpayer and in that capacity needs to answer to taxpayer concerns. It seems the corps may have lost sight of that fact.

    • Boar Master says:

      water in river no waste ever river need water DNR an fisheries say how much not u mor majic talk

  12. Jerry Clontz says:

    If you eliminate recreation (meaning the recreational infrastructure necessary to provide recreation) from the Corps responsibilities, full pool has no meaning. But Congress added that to the mix in the 1980’s. Once recreation is a responsibility, maintaining full pool when possible means you avoid, as much as possible, drastic drops in lake level and damage to recreation when dry weather conditions prevail. One necessary part of maintaining recreation is to not let the lakes drop so far prior to dry weather that you end up with drops in excess of 8 to 10 ft which destroy recreation.

    • US Army Corps of Engineers says:

      Thank you for your input Jerry. The Corps draws a different conclusion – perhaps because fulfilling the terms required for recreation is understood differently from your own premise. ~Russell

  13. Ferris says:

    I think calling full pool a target obscures clarity because maintaining full pool is not a project purpose. Contract power generation is clearly THE target during normal operation. After satisfying generation, the next objective is to balance lakes within the constraint of downstream releases. Generation and downstream releases prevent full pools except when inflows substantially exceed these amounts. I would like the “target full pool” terminology changed or clarified, because it currently creates unachievable expectations. ~Ferris

    • US Army Corps of Engineers says:

      Ferris – you are correct. I can see how Stan’s quote could mislead some into supposing that one of the Corps’ operating purposes is to target full pool. For the sake of clarification, none of the seven purposes include maintaining or targeting the pools at a specified level. The key qualifier in Stan’s quote is the clause, “When inflows are sufficient …”. In other words, our efforts to achieve and maintain full pools are conditional upon sufficient water resources to first achieve the seven purposes for which the project exists. Hope this helps. ~Russell

      • Ferris says:

        Hi Russell, thank you for responding. Common vernacular refers to a target as something achievable by actions. An archer shoots an arrow at a target. An increase in advertising helps achieve sales targets. An increase in transfer rates helps achieve production targets. Hoping for cooler weather to improve cooling tower performance and thereby production is not a target. The last example appears comparable to hoping for sufficient inflows to reach full pool without reducing generation or downstream release rates. To me, the difference between “target” and “hope” appears important to understanding operations and creating realistic expectations. Please enlighten me of overlooked specific USACE actions that help reach full pool. ~Ferris

        • US Army Corps of Engineers says:

          Good observation Ferris. I believe our effort to achieve full pool (after meeting the purposes) is more than hope. There are other actions we could take, such as using a surplus to generate over and above contract – something SEPA would welcome. Or we could target a safer or more moderate level (from an operational standpoint), such as targeting half way between full pool and the first drought trigger. Theoretically, this is would be the most logical action in support of flood risk management because it would provide an additional two foot buffer below the threshold of flood storage, while maintaining two feet of padding over the drought trigger. But we do understand operating a system like this demands consideration of more than mathematical logic alone, so we accept a little risk and try to keep the levels right on the threshold of flood storage when resources allow. Does this make sense? ~Russell

          • Ferris says:

            Russell, thank you for clarifying that USACE strives to maximize conservation storage by limiting generation to SEPA contracts, even though SEPA would welcome additional power. The decision to conserve water does make full pools a target and benefits lake recreation.

            I continue to think comparing levels to full pool sets an unrealistic expectation, especially with higher contract generation demands beginning in July. Would Average Elevation provide a more realistic expectation? ~Ferris

            • US Army Corps of Engineers says:

              You are probably correct Ferris, that comparing observed levels to average elevations (instead of full pool) would set more realistic expectations. ~Russell

  14. Mike S. says:

    Does this mean they are going to bring Hartwell down to fill it or just hope for rain?

    • US Army Corps of Engineers says:

      Good question Mike. Currently elevations favor Thurmond over Hartwell with a six-inch imbalance. Since we aim to keep the two in balance, we have no plans to draw from Hartwell to fill Thurmond. But it sure would be nice to get some rain ;-) ~Russell

  15. yu nah ee tah says:

    yay team!

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