Despite rain, low lake levels still dangerous for boaters, swimmers

By: Katie Beasley Email
By: Katie Beasley Email
Boating safety with low water levels

Lot of boats are beached for the time-being, and a lot of docks are high and dry. Mini islands seem to pop up overnight, too, as water levels get lower and lower. (WRDW-TV / June 13, 2012)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / June 18, 2012

APPLING, Ga. -- Despite the recent rain, low lake levels have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warning swimmers and boaters during the busiest time of year.

Tracey Nesmith and his family have been coming to Clarks Hill Lake for years.

"It's just a family tradition," Nesmith said.

But this year, the low lake levels have them being extra careful out on the water.

"It is a little bit dangerous, especially if you're not used to the lake being this low," said Nesmith, who's camping out at Wildwood Park. "You could see some spots that usually you run over with a boat and not have to worry about and now you have to kind of go around and detour around them."

The lake is down about 7 and half feet below the average summer level.

"The in-flows coming into the lake are at record lows. Most days this time of year, we actually have negative in-flows because we have more water evaporating off the surface of the lake than we have actually flowing into the lake," explained Scott Hyatt, the operations project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the J. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake.

If the lake was at full, pool swimmers at any of the Army Corps beaches would be under water.

The Corps says the source of the problem is the ongoing drought, despite some people blaming them.

"I hear all kinds of stories about where we are, why the lake levels are what they are, but basically it is a function of how much water we have coming in," Hyatt said.

With potential dangers in shallow water, The Corps tries to mark problem areas.

"There's a lot of difference hazards that are out there. We do some markings of ones that we can get out there and do, but really there are just too many to keep track of," Hyatt said.

Nesmith said she's just hoping for a fun and safe family vacation.

"Well it's a little frustrating when you drive this far to have a good time, but I come here to have fun, to get away from everything and not have to worry about nothing," Nesmith said.

The Corps has a management plan in place for the lake and the other bodies of water up and down stream. Last October, they started cutting back on the release of water.

They say by August, they expect to drop 3 feet into the next drought trigger plan, which means they will start cutting back even more water release.


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