Yesterday I attended a Western Upstate Association of REALTOR luncheon at the Keowee Key Country Club. Sandy Campbell, Chief Ranger, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was our guest speaker. Sandy’s topic was the “State of the Lake”. She started the presentation with, “we are our own worst enemy … we don’t do a good enough job telling people what we do”. I think the majority of the attendees agreed with her.
 
Overall, Sandy did a great job with her presentation. Here are a few highlights:
 
-         Currently Lake Hartwell is out of balance with Lake Thurmond, therefore the Corps will “turn off the spigot” (reduce the outflow) from Hartwell until both lakes are balanced. Sandy’s explanation was that happened because the lower part of the Savannah River Basin received more rain and run-off then what Hartwell received. Something she said that surprised me was that the rain that falls in Anderson runs off into Lake Russell, not Lake Hartwell. The drainage basins that flow into the different lakes consist of the following: Hartwell 2088 square miles, Russell 2837 square miles, and Thurmond 6144 square miles. As you can see, there’s not as much drainage that flows into Hartwell as what people assume.
 
-         The Corps are in an “adaptive management” mode. Sandy said that in the future they’re not going to take the lake down 4’ in the winter like they have in the past. She’s not sure what level will be set yet.
 
-         When Lake Hartwell and Thurmond are at least 15’ below full pool Lake Thurmond needs a higher percentage of water, therefore they accelerate the outflow of water from Hartwell. As of yesterday, Lake Hartwell was at 647.87 msl (mean sea level). New projections indicate that Hartwell could be at 651.4 msl by May 16, 2009. That’s about 6 inches lower then last year. Full Pool is 660 msl. Sandy made a comment, “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t control the rainfall”. She also added, “God can do anything”.  
 
-         Every Wednesday new lake level projections are posted on the Corps website.
 
I asked three questions at the meeting:
 
  1. She mentioned that the Corps needed to improve their communication. I asked what they’re doing to address that. She explained that they periodically send out information to lake property owners. More needs to be done.
  2. How will the reactor additions at Plant Vogtle affect the water level on Lake Hartwell? Sandy didn’t have a very good answer for this question. She commented that there are still reviews being done by different entities on those plans. She suggested that concerned citizens write and comment to their representatives (see my earlier blogs on Save our Lakes Now and Plant Vogtle).
  3. I asked: who are the Corps representatives that have the day to day “spigot” control over the water flows? She stated that Stanley (Stan) Simpson and Jason Ward have that responsibility.
 
Overall, I feel that this was one of the better Corps meetings that I’ve attended. One thing is obvious, people and especially stakeholders need to become more active and voice their opinion to leaders and decision makers. I urge everyone concerned with the lakes of the Savannah River basin to contact their State and Federal representatives and let them know your concern. Go to the Save our Lakes Now website for a list of contacts. Jessica Sibley from the Daily Journal was at the meeting to take notes (read her story, "Good News, bad news for lake Hartwell"). You can find her articles and others at www.upstatetoday.com . Here are two recent articles on rising waters and tweaking lake levels.
 
By Jay Hufnagel, Keller Williams Realty, www.SayJayLakeandHome.com, sayjay@bellsouth.net , 864-287-7530.