2009-03-05 / Front Page

Corps halts outflow at Thurmond due to rain

Due to abundant rains in the Upper Savannah River Basin, including significant rainfall in the Stevens Creek sub-basin immediately below Thurmond Dam, the United States Army Corps of Engineers stopped all outflows from the dam for nearly 48 hours beginning Saturday, February 28.

Inflows into the Savannah River below Thurmond Dam reached as high as 5,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). The required minimum outflow from the dam is currently set at 3,600 cfs to meet downstream needs.

With the natural flows exceeding minimum requirements, Col. Ed Kertis, Savannah District commander, consulted with corps water managers and decided to suspend discharges from the reservoir. Water managers evaluated the river flow early Monday and decided to take the flow back to 3,600 cfs.

According to Col. Kertis, the corps will evaluate each rain storm for the possibility of retaining more water in the three Savannah River reservoirs the federal agency controls. However, not all storms will provide the needed downstream flow long enough to make suspending discharges practical.

The three reservoirs, Lakes Hartwell, Russell, and Clark's Hill, along with the Savannah River below Thurmond Dam, provide water for cities, industries, utilities, and water treatment for cities from Greenville, South Carolina, to Savannah. The reservoirs also provide recreational opportunities to tens of millions of visitors each year.

In his comments, Jerry Clontz, the author of a blog devoted to the lake, said, "We were thrilled when Col. Kertis broke with tradition and held off flows through Thurmond Dam during the rain event that occurred this past weekend.

"The corps does a balancing act between many interests below and above the dam.

"In the past, we have not seen this kind of flexibility and it was greatly appreciated," he continued. "Anyone who has a stake in what is happening at Lake Thurmond might want to let the colonel know how much his efforts were appreciated."

In closing, Clontz said, "We are now hopeful that the corps will find a way to hold off on increasing flows until the lakes return to full pool. Again, this will require quite a balancing act on Col. Kertis' part. The lake community has suffered billions in damages from the drought and is in debt to the colonel for trying to help alleviate the situation."

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