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High lake water closes some lake facilities, doesn't affect others

Posted: January 5, 2014 - 1:07am
Debris marks the high water level at the boat ramp at Petersburg Campground. The ramp remains closed until the lake level returns to a safe level for launching boats.   Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Debris marks the high water level at the boat ramp at Petersburg Campground. The ramp remains closed until the lake level returns to a safe level for launching boats.

Record-breaking December rain forced some Clarks Hill Lake facilities to close.

Docks, boat ramps and fishing piers and other lakeside facilities remained closed Monday after a week of rising waters.

The beaches and docks at Petersburg Campground were closed last week and campers at a low-lying camp site had to be moved because of rising waters.

Park Attendant Richard Reeves said over the weekend, the water rose to within a couple of feet of flowing over the pavilion at the swimming area.

Last month was the wettest December on record for the Thurmond sub-basin, or the streams and tributaries that flow into the reservoir, said Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Tracy Robillard.

The lake had risen to 333.3 feet above sea level on Tuesday, about 7.3 feet above the normal water level for this time of year. The full summer pool is 330 feet. On Dec. 22 and 23, 3.2 inches of rain were measured in the sub-basin. Another 2.3 inches fell Saturday and Sunday, creating a total 8.5 inches for the month.

“December has been a really wet month for Thurmond,” Robillard said. “A lot of it fell in these single rain events.”

A year ago, the lake level was 15 feet below full pool.

Water run-off continued to fill the lake early this week. Thurmond, in addition to upstream lakes Hartwell and Russell, were in flood storage capacity, enabling large volumes of water to be retained and released safely into the lower Savannah River.

Wildwood Park Manager Jamey Rabun said the high water hasn’t affected the park’s docks and boat ramps, which are relatively new and designed to withstand even another foot of water before causing problems. They remained open through the rising water levels, Rabun said Monday.

“The boat ramps look good, there’s no problem there,” Rabun said, adding that water encroached on a few camp sites, but didn’t displace any campers. “We’re in pretty good shape.”

The park’s primitive camping area, which is on a small island accessed by a peninsula, was flooded and was closed, Rabun said. But with few campers using the primitive area this time of year, the closure hasn’t caused problems.

He doesn’t expect the high water to cause issues at a small Jan. 25 fishing tournament.

The water is beginning to recede, Reeves said.

“Our plan is to increase outflows at Thurmond Dam so we can pass some of that excess water,” Robillard said, adding that the water will pass through the dam’s turbines to generate hydropower.

Releases were increased to 20,000 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, were scheduled to increase another 5,000 cubic feet per second for the remainder of the week. Park rangers and volunteers were continually assessing flooding at recreation areas and flagging off areas. Robillard said impacts downstream will be negligible.

After Clarks Hill approaches normal pool levels, the Corps plans to increase water releases at Hartwell and Russell dams.

CLOSED AREAS AT CLARKS HILL LAKE

Closed docks: Keg Creek, Amity, Parksville, Clarks Hill Park, Petersburg, Scotts Ferry, Big Hart, Ridge Road, Dordon Creek, Modoc Ramp and Morrahs Ramp

Closed fishing piers: Amity, Lake Springs

Closed boat ramps: Leroys Ferry, Bussey Point, Big Hart, Ridge Road, Dordon Creek, Parksville and Clarks Hill Park

Submerged retaining walls: West Dam, Scotts Ferry and Parksville recreation areas

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