US Army Corps of Engineers to release more water in dam starting next week

News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, May 7, 2013

CLARKS HILL, S.C. (WRDW) -- Right now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is still operating under the drought contingency plan and restricting the flow of water through the dam, but now that the levels are up, that's where some of this water will be heading.

"Thank you, Mother Nature," said Savannah District Cmdr. Col. Jeffrey Hall.

That's praise everyone can agree on since a lake that used to be dry and barren is now near full pool.

"Now the lake is at 327.7 feet [above sea level], so 2.3 feet down from full pool. And by this Friday, based on the inflows that we're getting from the tributaries, we should be at 328.6 feet. We have not been at that level for five years," Hall said.

Now people living along the lake just hope it stays that way.

"I think it's wonderful. I just wish they could do something to maintain it. This dock over here, it's probably the first time it's had water under it for two years," Danny O'Shields said.

But docks and recreation aren't the only reasons we need water.

"It provides hydropower, supports recreation, water quality, water supply, and fish and wildlife management," Hall explained.

The Corps of Engineers controls the flow through the Strom Thurmond Dam so people downstream have water, too. Now that levels are up, that's where some of this water will be heading.

Right now, it just looks like a trickle of water coming out of the dam, but if the lake levels keep rising like the Corps predicts it will, they plan to up the waterflow possibly as early as next week.

"We'll probably start increasing the flows to about 4,200 cfs (cubic feet per second)," Col. Hall said.

That means about 2 million more gallons will be flowing downstream each day. That's about the same amount of water as 43,000 bath tubs.

"There's no reason they can't leave it up for the rest of the summer," Billy Randolph said.

Randolph owns the Modoc Sporting Center by the lake. He remembers how bad it got when the lake was down and says he hopes this year will be different.

"Feels real good. I believe we're going to have a real great summer if it stays that way. If it drops back down, money wise, it'll drop back down with it," he said.

Hall does want to remind everyone that as summer hits, some evaporation will naturally lower the lake, but he expects the levels to stay much higher throughout the summer than they first predicted.

Hall's trip on Tuesday marked his last planned visit to the area before he relinquishes his command of the Savannah District. He's been in the position since 2010.

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