Corps of Engineers holding off on opening Hartwell Dam floodgates

Rivers in the area are higher than normal due to last week's rains. (Source: WRDW)
Rivers in the area are higher than normal due to last week's rains. (Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: Feb. 11, 2020 at 3:20 PM EST
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Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020

News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- With more rain on the way, officials say the river could continue to rise. But the Corps of Engineers says they are holding off on opening the flood gates at Hartwell Dam until at least Friday.

But that all depends on how much rain we receive. The Savannah River is already full and needs a break.

“The water is usually about 20 feet back from its edge right now,” Tonya Bonitatibus with the Savannah Riverkeeper said.

Some docks are underwater while others are within inches. But Bonitatibus says an inch will make a difference.

“Right now, you are looking at the difference between a one or two inch rain at the upper basin on one of those lakes filling it up to get to the point where we have to open those floodgates,” Bonitatibus said.

Some people may remember what happened to Lake Thurmond in 2015 when the Corps of Engineers opened the flood gates. But, the Corps says don't expect it to be like that this time.

There’s better ways to measure what’s coming in.

“In 2015, it was a ruler on the side of a boat landing with a security camera on it,” Bonitatibus said.

The Corps says gates may be opened at Hartwell Dam though. It'll be close.

The water is already over the edge in downtown Augusta, and the Riverkeeper says water here and in area waterways likely has high levels of e. Coli – due to more sewage overflows caused by the flooding.

“If you are flooding or you have flood waters, then you should expect it to have some dirty, nasty stuff in those floodwaters,” Bonitatibus said.

That nasty stuff is piled up, too.

"I don't think we are looking at any low water any time soon,” Bonitatibus said. “We are looking at a very, very full river."

Augusta engineering says they are monitoring local flooding right now. They say if the Corps does decide to open the gates at Hartwell Dam, it could change their response.

The Riverkeeper says to expect the river to stay at least this high or get higher by the end of the week.

Copyright 2019 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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