Here's an interesting email that I received from Save Our Lakes Now concerning the lake levels and flow from Lake Hartwell and Thurmond:

The Corps is proudly announcing that they plan to go to 3100cfs release rate out of Thurmond shortly when the lake hits 14' below full pool. This is fine compared to any other options we have now but this is a real miscarriage of their responsibilities if you look at what they have allowed to happen.  In order to keep our lakes at reasonable levels the Corps needs to drop release rates to 3600 cfs (3100 in winter months) anytime the lakes are 2' below full pool.  Instead the Corps is waiting until the lakes are down over 14' and virtually destroyed before they do this.

The argument the Corps keeps giving is that people downstream would be hurt unnecessarily if the rates were decreased before now.  Not true.  Not one single stakeholder on the river had problems with operation at 3600cfs for over 12 consecutive months in the drought of 2008-9.  The only people who complained were environmental groups expressing concern that problems MIGHT occur at this low a flow to the river. 

There are a number of very strong arguments to counter holding flows up because they MIGHT be a problem. 

  1. If a REAL problem occurs the release rates can be increased when that happens
  2. Nature only provides 3600cfs input averaged over a year so anything higher than that is man trying to one up Nature. Man just isn't that smart.  Smoothing out flooding and the severity of the driest parts of droughts makes sense but trying to generate water out of thin air does not.
  3. Water is one of our most precious commodities.  It ranks right up there with air.  Deliberately throwing fresh water away by releasing more to the ocean than nature does is criminal and needs to stop.

These challenges are taken care of by simply dropping releases to 3600cfs (3100 in winter months) whenever the lakes are down 2'.  No more water is going to the ocean than nature requires.  No one is harmed downstream based on past experience.  And true balance between the lakes and the river is achieved (i.e. neither the river nor the lakes are getting more water than the other).