U.S. Army Corps Seeking Public Input on Drought Management Plan

Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Savannah District are seeking public input on their draft revision of their Drought Management Plan.

The drought plan directs water managers and others on how to use and conserve resources when drought strikes the region.

Corps spokesman Billy Birdwell said the report contains recommendations to improve management of water resources in the Savannah River during drought and includes detailed

“This is part of the Savannah River Basin comprehensive study,” said Birdwell. “This is interim 2 and included in that is a draft update to the drought plan. The whole interim 2, including the drought plan, is out for public review and comment.”

The public along with government agencies, industry, civic groups may submit comments through noon on July 13.

In 2013, lawmakers from Georgia and South Carolina, along with U.S. Congressman Doug Collins pressured the Corps to make changes to its drought management plan after a severe drought affected local businesses and tourism on Lake Hartwell.

Working with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy, Corps officials examined six different alternatives to manage water during a drought, comparing each to the current plan.

Birdwell said they settled on the  “Alternative 2” plan, which changes their Drought Trigger Level 3 procedures.

“The recommended alternative, which we label Alternative 2, which had the most positive benefits for the most mission areas of the reservoir system will change when we enter drought trigger levels,” said Birdwell. “Particularly, changing drought trigger level 3, and raises that level to a higher point so we enter drought trigger level 3 much sooner than we do now. That will in effect save more water, sooner.”

Additionally, Birdwell said Drought Trigger Level 1 would remain constant year-round as opposed to dipping in relation to the winter drawdown.

That could reduce outflows sooner than the current plan.

Once the public input has ended, the Corps will then evaluate those comments and suggestions, but Birdwell says that could be a lengthy process.

“We don’t have a set time table for that because a lot of that depends on how many comments and what the comments say,” said Birdwell. “Some comments can get very elaborate, especially from the agencies or from some of the environmental and non-government organization groups. They take a while to evaluate and we need to give them strong consideration and have answers for the folks.”

The public can go online and read the draft drought management plan at: http://www.sas.usace.army.mil.