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Lake Thurmond deals with economy, environment amid Labor Day Weekend

Lake Thurmond drying up

Lake Thurmond is 6 feet below where it should be thanks to drought conditions. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 1, 2011)

News 12 at 5 o'clock / Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011

CLARKS HILL, S.C. -- It's a busy time of the year as families prepare to enjoy a three-day weekend.

Some will head to Lake Thurmond for some camping, hiking and swimming.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says tough times with the economy and the environment have them making changes that could affect you.

It's been a while since we've seen a good, soaking rain and the dangerous drought conditions we're dealing with could mean a little less lake.

The sun beams give little promise this lake will see any rain.

Danny Boyles has been camping at the lake for a week.

"The water levels are terrible," he said.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Operations Project Manager Scott Hyatt says the lake is just about 6 feet down from what would be considered a full pool lake level.

"It messes up the fishing, skiing, tubing," Boyles said.

Hyatt says, though, there is still plenty of water -- about 70,000 acres of it.

"We know some of the hazards that come up out of the lake; at certain elevations we go out and we mark them," he said.

Meanwhile, Boyles takes advantage of the season.

"We'd like to stay open year round 'cause we enjoy it so much," he said.

However, budget constraints mean closing season will come sooner for some campgrounds.

"We're looking to close all of them, except for Petersburg, four of them earlier around September 30th related to budget unknowns in 2012," said US Army Corps of Engineers Park Operations Manager Aaron Wahus.

He's talking about Modoc, Big Hart, Winfield and Raysville. They will be closing earlier this year on Sept. 30.

"The recreational line corp wide has taken a large impact, here at Thurmond Lake we've taken a 22 percent cut in the last five years," Wahus said.

For the past two years, some areas of the day-use parks have been closing right after Labor Day. You can thank lack of money for that.

"The dwindling federal budget and what's available now; the Corps of Engineers has taken a large impact from the reductions just like all the other agencies," Wahus said.

It's more of a reason for Boyles and his family to come out here, rain or shine.

"It's a great place to come to get away from the house, peace and quiet, and to have a good time," Boyles said.

The Army Corps of Engineers wants everyone to know two boat ramps are closed this weekend because of the water levels. They expect a few more to close next week as well.

They say, as far as the budget, they are working with a company on a future partnership for the upcoming year. If all goes as planned, that could keep all campgrounds open longer and even provide for more services.

Click here for a full list of recreation closing dates.


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