Corps Into Second Phase of Drought Study

By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is six months in to the second phase of a comprehensive study on how to better manage the waters of the Savannah River and its reservoirs during times of drought.

Corps Spokesman Russell Wicke said this phase of the study is focusing on two main areas.

He said the two questions being asked include how far can the Corps reduce outflows at J. Strom Thurmond Dam during a drought and how long can those minimum outflows be maintained before it affects local economies.

“The way we plan to answer those questions is to run about six different alternative drought contingency plans,” Wicke said. “And the study is basically evaluating the risks and impacts of each of those alternatives.”

Wicke said the Corps study will consider and compare the six alternative operating plans against what the Corps calls its “No Action Alternative,” which is the current drought contingency plan.

He explained that for each alternative, a model must be built, then raw inflow information must be collected and then filtered to exclude irrelevant data.

Wicke went on to say that once there is a clean set of data to plug into each alternative, the models will produce results.

He said the results will then be compiled, evaluated and documented in a report.

Last September, the Corps signed an agreement to continue working on the comprehensive study in conjunction with the Georgia and South Carolina Departments of Natural Resources and Georgia and South Carolina Savannah River Caucuses.

Wicke said they continue to receive input from all of those groups.

“The concerns of all the stakeholders in the SavannahRiver Basin are important to us,” he said. “And we understand how important it is to be ready for drought. Water is a valuable resource. We are on board with all of our state and federal partners and doing our best to conserve and ration water during those times. That’s one of our main priorities during drought.”

Wicke said this second phase of the study is expected to take about 18 months to complete.