Phased reopening begins at Thurmond and Hartwell

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Phased reopening of Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds and additional boat ramps at reservoirs along the Savannah River will take place May 15 and May 18.

The gradual reopening will vary based on the ability to ensure visitors and Corps of Engineers staff remain safe and can continue to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Before opening facilities, workers will conduct a thorough cleaning of restrooms, showers and other common-use areas.

Restrooms at boat ramps currently in use will be reopened. Additional boat ramps not associated with closed day-use areas will reopen.

Visitors must bring their own soap and hand sanitizer and paper towels when using restrooms.

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Can’t stop, won’t stop (the rain)

As the coronavirus brought the world to a halt the last two months, another force of nature refused to slow down: rainfall along the Savannah River Basin.

The basin continued its above-average climb as spring began its full swing.

With the exception of the Hartwell sub-basin in March, which was 0.3 inches below average, each of the sub-basins received more than 1 inch (and in some cases 2+ inches) above average for the past two months.

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Augusta’s training wall served its purpose

SAVANNAH, Ga. – A team of experts from Savannah District recommends removing the training wall in the Savannah River which runs roughly down the center of the river for more than a mile through Augusta, Georgia, and North Augusta, South Carolina. The underwater wall was built in the early 20th century to aid commercial navigation.

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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.

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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.

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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: https://water.sas.usace.army.mil.

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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