Water Issues Require Continued Conversation
By Juan Brown
The following article appeared in the April 1, 2008 edition of the Anderson Independent Mail and is re-printed with approval of the author. Juan Brown is a retired physician and past chairman of the Anderson Chamber of Commerce Water Resource Committee and the chamber’s Executive Committee, past chairman of the Anderson Art Council and the Anderson County Economic Development Advisory Board.
I met recently with strong, dedicated professional leaders concerning Hartwell Lake levels and the Savannah River Basin. The meeting was arranged by Congressman Gresham Barrett and included myself, Mike Gray of the Hartwell Lake Coalition, Mike Massey , past president of the Lake Hartwell Association(LHA) and Joe Brenner President of LHA.
Congressman Barrett asked us to speak with the Commander of the Savannah River Corp of Engineers, Colonel Edward J. Kertis who brought with him five of his staff and Virgil Hobbs director of this region.
First of all we were assured that power production was not the reason that 2.3 billion gallons (3600cfs) of water is released daily. This is an amount that is required to keep the Savannah River Basin healthy. In fact SEPA now buys electricity from other power companies to fulfill their contracts.
Colonel Kertis recognized that this flow level is based on out of date studies and announced that the Corp has arranged a meeting with scientific stakeholders to discuss what measures are necessary to reach a safe an adequate flow. In other words can it be decreased to 3000cfs or even lower in order to protect the water in the Lakes. We also came to understand that the lower part of the Basin has no understanding of our concerns about lake levels since he quoted “they don’t care whether our docks are
floating or not”. Our viewpoint is that the longer we can protect the water level the longer they will have water available downstream. We also discussed the problems that would occur if we ever reached level four (4) emphasizing that the only flow at that time will equal Lake Hartwell inflow.
As an aside the National Weather Bureau is not predicting any significant rainfall until late winter so it is a mute point about our floating docks.
We also discussed Parks and Recreation closings including ramps around the lake and Colonel Kertis emphasized that the Corp was the only Federal organization not allowed to keep their collected park fees. Congressman Barrett is going to work to change this so that these fees can be spent in the District where it was generated.
It seems that since the 1950’s scientific and engineering groups have been warning of the impending water shortage in America. South Carolina is not responding since our present Governor has not put any emphasis on the shortage except forming a Water Committee several years ago. Meanwhile Georgia and North Carolina are far ahead of our state in plans and commitments for water shortages. Mike Massey emphasized this and discussed some of the Legislative Bills that are now being considered in the State House. Mike Gray discussed the cooperation that we are experiencing with the Lake Hartwell Alliance and the Corp of Engineers that has not been available in the past suggesting that we need to include the lower part of the Basin in these conversations.
Joe Brenner emphasized that we don’t have 2-5 years for studies to be accomplished but
we need leadership and decisions now. Colonel Kertis is trying to doing his part but he is hampered by a bureaucracy level that most Americans couldn’t believe existed.
So what did we get out of this meeting?
I think Colonel Kertis is genuinely concerned about our problems and will work with us to solve this bureaucratic dilemma as well as satisfy the fears of the lower part of the Savannah River Basin. We can accomplish this by keeping open all communication with the stakeholders in the Basin and improve our knowledge of their concerns. Communication with SEPA has to be improved since we don’t understand why at full
pool they start selling power even with poor weather predictions. We probably need to go to lower releases (3600cfs) sooner.
We need to discuss with the Corp of Engineers ways to prevent the automatic lowering of the lake in the spring by four feet.
We need to have increased interest and cooperation from State elected officials in the development of a good Water Plan especially since the new Georgia water plan has approved inter-basin transfer.
We need to work with the Lake Hartwell Coalition in their study of the Lake and how the lake levels affect the Economics of our area.
While Conservation groups in the lower part of the Basin have a vast amount of input into the management of the Basin we have no one to advise us in this area. It was an excellent meeting that answered many of our questions and raised many more. Throughout the meeting it was obvious that Colonel Kertis is interested in working with the Upstate .Congressman Barrett used his influence and time to facilitate this meeting and we sincerely thank them both.
This is a very complex and complicated problem that needs to be addressed for the benefit of our country and our children.