Concerns high, water levels low as drought continues


News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012

MCCORMICK, S.C. -- A meeting on lake levels is got people fired up Wednesday night.

As the drought continues, people on both sides of the issue are frustrated and begging for more water in their section of the lake or river.

After Wednesday night's meeting, some say the only answer they got is to do a rain dance.

"Oh I’m frustrated; I could scream. I pay taxes to live on the lake, and I have no lake," said Clark Hill resident Jamie Williams.

Dry, red dirt is tough sight to see when clear, blue water is the sight people living around the lake used to see.

"For two years, my dock’s been on the ground. My boat has been on the ground in front of my garage for over two years," Williams said.

So the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers called this meeting to talk about the low water levels in Lakes Hartwell, Russell and Thurmond.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger David Quebedeaux said the meeting was, "To try and explain that it hasn't rained and that it's not mismanagement of water."

Blaming the rain doesn't mean they don't have a plan.

"We do have a plan,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Spokesman Billy Birdwell. “We are working with states to try to come up with new plans so that we may be able to reduce flows even more, but that will require some real specific study so that we can do it in a scientific way."

Right now the water in Lake Thurmond is down 13 feet, and the water it does have has competing needs.

"They need that water to be up so they can sell real estate, so that their docks float and fish and ski and all those things that are important, but the people downstream, they want the rivers to be up as well because they have needs, too. They have to have drinking water and to water their crops. Businesses need water,” Quebedeaux said.

People living on the lake say the low water levels are devastating the economy in the surrounding towns.

One man has lived on the lake for 20 years and says he's seen tourism drop dramatically.

“The traffic for the boat and recreation is down about 60 percent right now. The big tournaments that used to be on this lake are no longer and that brought a lot of money,” he said.

Even the experts say the answer is as simple as rain.

"I cannot predict what the lake levels are going to do, because I can't tell you if it's going to rain. Watch the weather on Channel 12. Maybe the weather man will make it rain," Quebedeaux said.

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