Often laws and regulations go into effect at the beginning of a new year. The Savannah District started three more this Jan. 1. All deal with shoreline management at Corps of Engineers’ reservoirs on the Savannah River.
Two stirred little controversy.
We changed from a consolidated license and permit form to two separate forms. We also reduced the diameter of vegetation allowed to be cut with an underbrushing permit. We reduced the diameter from 4 inches or smaller at Hartwell Lake (less than 6 inches at Thurmond Lake) to vegetation less than 3 inches in diameter at both locations. This will help protect habitat for the recently listed long-eared bat.
When the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service placed the long-eared bat on the endangered species list FWS declared all land around Hartwell Lake and land in two northern counties at Thurmond Lake as habitat for the bat.
The third change has drawn more attention.
The third change ends the decades-long policy of licensing landowners adjacent to Corps reservoir property to withdraw non-potable water from the reservoirs to irrigate lawns and gardens. When current licenses expire the owners will no longer be allowed to irrigate lawns and gardens with reservoir water.
The Corps will issue no new irrigation licenses. Washing docks and boats where the water falls back into the reservoir will still be allowed.
This change impacts property owners on Corps projects throughout the South Atlantic Division at 27 Corps of Engineers reservoirs in the Southeast. It brings shoreline management regulations into compliance with federal law.
The laws directing the construction of the dams and reservoirs – laws dating to the 1940s – never authorized irrigation, in any amount, as a project purpose.
All three Corps projects in the Savannah District have multiple purposes which include flood risk reduction, water supply, water quality, wildlife management, recreation, hydropower production and navigation. Congress did not include irrigation.
Corps officials in the South Atlantic Division did not come to this decision lightly.
Officials throughout the division discussed and debated the legalities for at least five years before concluding to discontinue these licenses. They also considered that many property owners would be impacted.
In the Savannah District alone, some 271 property owners at Thurmond Lake and more than 10 times that many at Hartwell Lake will lose this privilege when their licenses expire.
As licenses expire, property owners must cut and cap water lines leading from their pumps onto the shore. Underground piping may be abandoned in place.
Limited shoreline irrigation has been a long-standing policy in the South Atlantic Division, but after years of review we concluded it has never been legal. Making the change may be painful, but is necessary to comply with federal law.
For more information on these regulation changes or any topic dealing with shoreline management, contact one of the Savannah District lake project offices; Hartwell: 888-893-0678, Thurmond: 800-533-3478.