Lake Update from Friends of the Savannah River Basin

Aug 6, 2012

Dear friends,

I’ve received several calls from constituents across the Third District who are very concerned about water levels at our Army Corps of Engineers managed lakes (Thurmond, Russell, and Hartwell). Working on a solution to this problem has been a large focus of mine for well over a year now, and I wanted to forward a copy of an update from Harry Shelley, Co-Chairman of the Savannah River Basin Advisory Council, to give you an update on what’s been done, what will be done, and what we can expect in the future.

I hope you find the update below to be useful.
Blessings and Liberty,

Jeff Duncan
Member of Congress


Friends of the Savannah River Basin
July 30, 2012 Update

The Phase 2 Study involving South Carolina, Georgia, The Nature Conservancy and the Corps of Engineers is finally close to starting but frustratingly not yet underway.  This study will specifically address updates to the drought plan using the new drought of record that occurred from 2007-2009.  It will build upon the changes being proposed in the Interim Environmental Assessment which includes changing the levels in drought level two to 3,600cfs from November to January and during drought level three, reducing the outflows to 3,100cfs during the same time period.  It will also utilize the current drought conditions, along with lake elevations, to determine downstream releases.   The Savannah River Basin Advisory Council has developed and formally submitted recommendations (see below) to be addressed during the study.   
Friends of the Savannah River Basin is pleased to share that, based on discussions with stakeholders, and Federal and State agencies, some of our national elected representatives have also submitted a formal written request to the Corps for a specific model to be addressed during the Phase 2 study.  Congressmen Jeff Duncan (SC-3), Joe Wilson (SC-2), Paul Broun (GA-10) and SC US Senators Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham have all jointly signed the recommendation letter.  The request calls for analyzing and modeling a management approach that would maintain Lakes Hartwell and Thurmond elevations within 7-8 feet of the full pool guide curves for a minimum of three years for the current drought of record.   They feel strongly that this would serve the dual purposes of minimizing the impact on the recreation and economics of the lakes for the states of GA and SC while reducing the possibility of exhausting the conservation pools thereby protecting downstream interests should the drought continue.  This united stand by our key representatives is consistent with their belief of the importance of this endangered resource.  Representatives Duncan and Broun are both on the congressional Natural Resource Committee which is a key Committee to initiate any significant federal changes in water management.  Senator Graham serves on the Senate Appropriations, Armed Services, and Budget committees.  Senator DeMint is on the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation, Joint Economic, Banking Housing and Urban Affairs and Foreign Relations committees. Joe Wilson serves on the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and Education and Workforce.

Other On-going Federal Initiatives:

We had previously discussed Representative Duncan’s involvement in obtaining SC’s share of the required matching funding for Phase 2 (July 8 Lake Release).  He has also been working behind the scenes in Washington to gather the needed bi-partisan support from members in other states that is needed to enact any of the ultimately required long-term changes at the Federal level. These include the following initiatives:

  • Beginning the process of forming a non-partisan Water Caucus in Washington to bring Members of Congress from across the country together to solve water related concerns and issues such as power generation, general project priorities, and federal project management.
  • Because of his previous background in SC water issues, he has requested SC Governor Nikki Haley to reinstitute the former Southeast Regional Water Resource Alliance that last met in 2008.  This group had representatives from Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida coming together to work on water issues.  This would complement the work of the Water Caucus in Washington, DC.  It would be modeled on the Western States Water Council (created in 1965) which has representatives from 18 states.  Three key objectives of that group are (1) accomplish effective cooperation among western states in the conservation, development and management of water resources (2) maintain vital state prerogatives, while identifying ways to accommodate legitimate federal interests and (3) evaluating impacts of federal laws and programs and the effectiveness of state laws and policies.


We feel strongly and have been pushing hard for both the implementation of the Interim EA and the accomplishment of the Phase 2 study.  
Neither of these could he accomplished without the cooperation and involvement of the Federal and State officials.  As we previously reported, we were pleased to hear the commitment of both Representatives Paul Broun and Jeff Duncan to change the management policies and ensure all stakeholders’ needs are considered along the basin. We were thrilled that for the first time in our eleven years, we sat in a room with two high ranking Federal representatives, one representing GA and one representing SC and heard urgency in their voices to protect the entire basin.  What really excited us was this action that they took!  As we all know, words are easy to come by, but learning they jointly signed, and asked others to join them is what we needed at this time.
PLEASE take the time to learn what elected officials are doing to help push for cooperative, proactive management of the basin.  Too many do not feel the urgency to get things done or have not taken the time to learn of the management procedures being proposed.  We attend some candidate nights from both GA and SC and introduce ourselves and ask questions.  We would like you to do the same.  Email, go to meetings and find out what actions they are willing to take.  This is not a partisan issue.  Use your findings to vote...encourage the candidates to contact us, the Corps, Duncan or Broun.  Push them to get involved.   Please keep us informed.


Consolidated Formal Comments: The following is the final set of Savannah River Basin Council recommendations that should be addressed during the Phase 2 study.  They were supplied to the State resource agencies and the corps on July 6th.  It was stated to the Council that trigger levels can be adjusted but that the guide curves can’t be adjusted in this phase due to the need for Congressional reallocation.

  •  Ecological flows should include model runs on limits to show lowest flow to protect water supplies, including salt water intrusion, and then examine ecological limit lowest flows including effects on freshwater wetlands and assimilative capacities.  The study should also examine the timing and durations of flow changes. 
  • Need to address extreme scenarios to ensure a consensus agreement between stakeholders and Federal Agencies not just previous 3600 and 3100 cfs releases from Thurmond. Criteria used to balance effects across the basin should be clearly defined.
  • Re-examine the number and spacing of the drought trigger points.  There is too much water lost between the existing second and third levels.
  • Provide a clear rationale for the winter drawdowns (lowering of the guide curves) for any of the drought trigger levels;
  • The updated plan should provide more coordination between SC and Georgia on conservation measures integrated with the trigger levels (including announcements of the need for conservation measures to the general public at each trigger level).   (Note:  Dean Moss announced he is part of the reconstituted  Joint Governors’  Committee working with to develop an agreement on coordination similar to the Catawba on low flow protocols)
  • Phase2 must view the river system as a whole, recognizing current on-going actions and their total impacts and/or proposed mitigation actions (e.g., include FERC, TMDL, SHEP, Plant Vogtle expansion etc.).
  • Integrate defined mitigation actions users can take and implementation costs as lower trigger levels are approached
  • The impact of the Augusta Canal diversion must be fully integrated into the overall SRB Drought Contingency Plan to cover both required flows and any specific mitigation actions by the City of Augusta.

We wish you a safe and enjoyable rest of the summer season.  Stay safe.
Harry and Barb Shelley 
Facilitators Friends of the Savannah River Basin