2017-07-06 / Front Page

Corps requests public comment on new drought contingency plan

Property owners, recreational lake-goers, and those generally concerned with the environmental issues surrounding the borders of Clark’s Hill Lake are encouraged to examine and comment on a recently released draft report containing recommendations to improve management of water resources in the Savannah River during drought from officials with the United States Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District.

According to Senior Public Affairs Specialist Billy Birdwell, if this plan is set in place, “people who live around the reservoir and surrounding areas will definitely see a difference.”

The study put together detailed information to determine “the amount of flow required during severe and prolonged drought.” Officials seek comments on the study and updated drought plan before determining the final course of action. Government agencies, industry, civic groups, and individuals may submit comments through noon on Thursday, July 13.

The Corps, along with its study partners, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and the Nature Conservancy examined six different alternatives to manage water during drought, comparing each to keeping the current plan.

The recommended alternative, labeled “Alternative 2” achieves the most positive impacts and the least negative impacts to the water resources compared to each of the others, according to Corps officials.

“Through Alternative 2 we’ll actually enter into a drought much earlier, which is significant in order to conserve more water much earlier on,” Birdwell said.

Under the recommended alternative, drought trigger Level 3 rises six feet, bringing the most restrictive outflows into play much earlier in drought.

In addition trigger level 1 would remain constant year-round, as opposed to dipping in relation to the winter drawdown. This has the effect of possibly reducing outflows sooner than the current plan. Alternative 2 also keeps Level 2 flat year-round, reducing flows further than in the current plan.

While six different alternatives have been presented, Birdwell confirmed that Alternative 2 has the most positive impacts to the mission areas of the reservoir, which is highly important because “what we do in the reservoir affects everything else down stream.”

The release of the draft report marks the second interim of the Savannah River Basin Comprehensive Study, which started in 2012. This study includes an environmental assessment of the alternatives. The recommended plan would update the Savannah District’s Drought Contingency Plan. The drought plan directs water managers and others on how to use and conserve resources when drought strikes the region.

The alternative recommended for adoption makes some significant changes to water management during drought.

“Of the six new alternatives studied, the group recommended one with the greatest benefit to the greatest number of purposes assigned to the three Savannah District reservoirs,” Nathan Dayan, the study’s environmental team leader, said. “We examined impacts to the environment, economics, recreation, hydropower, water supply and water quality, and downstream navigation.”

“Both states worked alongside the Nature Conservancy and the Corps of Engineers to make this a true partnership in adding to our knowledge of the Savannah River Basin and in updating the drought contingency plan,” Dayan said.

Public input is needed as the “Savannah River Basin includes portions of 27 counties in Georgia, 13 counties in South Carolina, and four counties in North Carolina. Although the basin is predominantly rural, metropolitan areas are experiencing significant growth and development pressures.”

According to the drought plan, “primarily, growth occurred in the areas of Augusta and Savannah, although many smaller cities and towns are also developing. There are several functions the river serves including providing water for drinking, energy, municipal/industrial use, and agriculture. According to the Georgia River Network website, forestry and agricultural practices represents a large percentage of land use within the Savannah River Basin followed by smaller percentages of wetlands, and urban development.”

The public can review the entire draft study and draft drought plan online at http://ow.ly/7LJY30cz3pF.

For more information, contact Birdwell at 912-652-5014, by his cellphone at 912-677-6039, or by email Billy.E.Birdwell@usace. army.mil.

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