Lake Hartwell Association letter to Congressmen Duncan & Broun


June 25, 2012

The Honorable Paul Broun, United States House of Representatives, Washington, DC

The Honorable Jeff Duncan, United States House of Representatives, Washington, DC

Dear Representatives Broun and Duncan:

Subject: Savannah River Basin Management

As President of the Lake Hartwell Association, I am making the following requests on behalf of the thousands of voters and businesses that make up its membership. Based on feedback I am getting from them, during what should be the peak of our recreation season that is once again being diminished by drastically low lake levels, I am sure there are many thousands more who would join in.

We discussed these issues on April 4th in Representative Duncan’s office in Anderson, and it was agreed that the following would be investigated and appropriate action taken in Washington. First, we discussed your taking a lead role in forming a bi-state (SC &GA) coalition, including senators and other congressmen representing Savannah River Basin (SRB) interests at the federal level. Second, you would investigate and take appropriate action to get the SRB Corps of Engineers substantial relief from the stringent rules, regulations and bureaucratic constraints they now must work within. Third, you would investigate and take steps necessary to ensure that funding for future studies, operational updates, and other actions that would improve lake level management, and the basin in general, would be made available by using some of the power generation revenues now being sent to the general fund in Washington.

The most recent Savannah River Basin Advisory Committee (SRBAC) quarterly meeting was held on June 19th, with an agenda focused on the current drought situation and its impact on the Savannah River Basin’s lakes. It was well attended and informative, and further confirmed for me the importance of two issues that we discussed on April 4th.

First, the Corps’ authority to use proven adaptive management techniques to help mitigate the impact of a drought is severely limited by the bureaucratic environment they must operate within. Once again this became evident when it was announced that a final decision on the Environmental Assessment (EA) that was drafted by the Corp last November and would have given the Corps the flexibility to decrease flows by 200 cfs this summer, if necessary, has again been delayed pending an “unnamed agency” response. LHA’s response was due May 12th, 30 days after receipt. It seems that review times for the more than 100 agencies and stakeholders vary from 30 to 90 days depending on the different operating agreements with the Corps. Meanwhile, South Carolina and Georgia citizens whose businesses, jobs, home values, etc., depend on the lakes’ levels during this peak of the recreational season , suffer severe economic losses while the bureaucracy keeps a partial solution tied up in “red tape” and paperwork.

Second, attendees were told that South Carolina’s contribution needed to get phase 2 of the comprehensive study underway would be less than the $250K needed to match Georgia’s. Hopefully, in-kind services will be available and acceptable to make up the difference. This is the study we discussed as being so very important because it addresses lessons learned from the recent drought of record of 2009. Given the drought conditions we have been experiencing for the last year, one would think it would have been high on the priority list for funding. No doubt, the loss of tax revenues to the state due to low water levels this year alone will far exceed $250K.

As mentioned above, another topic we discussed on April 4th was the possibility of keeping some of the power generation funds (that now go into the general fund in DC) in the basin to pay for future studies, plans, etc. that will help to ensure better management and maintenance of the basin. Total cost of the phase 2 study, for example, is estimated at $1 million, 1/60th of average annual power generation income.

We thank you for your support of SRB issues and ask that you give these matters your immediate attention and highest priority, and keep us informed on a regular basis. A federal delegation tour of businesses hardest hit by the low water conditions would be welcomed and very beneficial. Please advise if the Lake Hartwell Association can assist in making arrangements… or in any other way.

Sincerely,

Herb Burnham, President
Lake Hartwell Association