Lake Release Update: 1-20-13

Friends of the Savannah River Basin

January 20, 2013 Update

WEATHER AND LAKES STATUS

Current levels are 649.50 ft-msl (Hartwell) and 316.32 ft-msl (Thurmond). The ten-week projection shows levels at 651.1 ft-msl and 319.9 ft-msl by March 23rd. This is based on inflows transitioning from 73% of normal to 75% of normal for Hartwell and Thurmond inflows transitioning from 64% of normal to 65% of normal. This would put the elevations about 4-5’ above trigger level 3.
The recent periods of rain have kept the ground moist enough to begin to allow significant run off into the lakes. The weather pattern has resulted in more rain in the extreme upper basin. So far in January, Hartwell has received over 118% of the normal January rainfall while Thurmond has received about 49% of the normal January rain. The drought monitor shows a slight improvement in the upper basin. This has caused the Lake elevations to be about 2.5 feet out of balance. The Corps has indicated that they will be bringing the pools back into balance by moving water down from Hartwell over the next several weeks. The 28 day average for Lake Thurmond’s largest tributary the Broad River has risen to the 30th percentile from single digits.
The longer term weather models shows the Pacific Ocean conditions remaining neutral. The 30 day forecast shows an equal chance for normal precipitation. The extended 90 day forecast still shows an equal chance of normal precipitation. Historical data says that the elevation of the lakes will begin to flatten out by April. The good news is that the current prediction shows an average increase of slightly less than 4 feet. This exceeds the January to March historical approximate 3.2 feet average increase. However the issue us is that the current average elevations of the two lakes are about 6.9 feet below the historical average for January.

POTENTIAL FOR MAINTAINING LOWER FLOWS

The Corps has updated their Balancing the Basin e-newsletter to a weekly format that allows comments. We encourage all to subscribe to this newsletter. The most recent issue can be found at http://balancingthebasin.army . It has a video this week on the Drought Plan Update. The video stated, “If we get enough rain this winter, we plan to disregard the conventional winter drawdown guidance. And finally, pending resource agency approval, we will try to keep outflows around the minimum 3,800 cubic feet per second as we refill.”
However this week’s ten-week projection shows the Thurmond release returning to 4000cfs on February 16. This is following the 2012 updated Drought Plan. We pointed this out at a recent meeting and asked if 4000cfs was being used because the agencies have not responded or because they have and it was negative. It did not appear that coordination was very far along. However the impression we came away with was that the continued reduction was probably not going to happen. We will not let up on this. We are asking for a list of those agencies that will not approve keeping the flows at 3800cfs until refill, and their reasons. Previously the Savannah River Basin Advisory Committee has recommended examining returning to the requirements of the previous SRB Drought Plan where the drought level 3 discharge restrictions were not lifted until both Hartwell and Thurmond reach full pool.
We have also asked that any information be made public through the Balancing the Basin newsletter since it would be a natural follow-on to the current issue. If in fact the disapproval for the maintenance of the lower flows is true we suspect part of the reasons may be related to the amount of water the Augusta Canal diverts from the shoals (see our December 17 Lake Release). However the Fish and Wildlife service has measured impacts in the fresh water estuary area and in certain shell fish species. More to follow…..

BOAT RAMPS

At Hartwell 2 additional boat ramps have been reopened. Currently there are 21 of 57 closed due to low levels. At Thurmond there has been no change. There are about half of the ramps closed. They have reported that they expect to open some ramps but need to have a buffer so they can be confident that even if the lake drops slightly, the ramps will still be useable.
Meanwhile, we have received word that Colonel Hall (a new father on
12.12.12) is leaving this April and we will again be starting to “train” again another new Colonel!

Harry and Barb Shelley
Facilitators Friends of the Savannah River Basin

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