Hartwell Lake Above Full Pool, Heavy Rain Could Push It Into Flood Stage

Corps of Engineers will try to avoid opening Lake Hartwell Dam’s spillways this weekend

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hartwell Project Office is closely monitoring Hurricane Florence as it makes landfall.

Northeast Georgia and the Upstate are bracing for heavy rain and high winds over the weekend as Florence lumbers inland.

The National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg is now saying Florence will make her presence known in our area Sunday and Monday, bringing with her up to 5 inches of rain.

Right now, Lake Hartwell is slightly above full pool at 660.7 feet mean sea level.

Any more rainfall from Florence plus run off from the Seneca and Tugalo Rivers could potentially raise the lake level to flood stage.

Right now, Hartwell has nearly five feet of flood storage available.

Hartwell Operations Project Manager Aaron Wahus met with Engineers from the Savannah office this week to work out a plan when Florence passes over.

He says right now, that plan is to send as much water downstream as possible.

“We’ve actually figured out how much capacity we have before we crest here at Hartwell,” Wahus explained. “At Lake Russell, they’re actually three and half below full pool and they have another five feet of flood capacity so that’s about eight feet. At Lake Thurmond, they’re working on spillway gate repairs so they’re down to 327 ft msl, or about three feet below full pool and they have another five feet of flood capacity. So, there’s a lot of (flood) capacity within the system. So, we will want to generate as much as we can through the generators to produce power before we consider opening the spillways. That’s the last thing we want to do.”

However, Wahus said if conditions require increasing releases beyond the capacity to generate electricity, the Corps will then pass water through the spillway gates at Hartwell Dam.

Meantime, the Hartwell Project office is also making plans to ensure Clemson University’s football fields don’t flood when Florence comes through.

Courtesy Clemson University

The Corps has a pumping station at the old Seneca River, which runs alongside Clemson’s two football fields.

Wahus says they will have an engineer there over the weekend monitoring the pumps to make sure Death Valley and the practice field don’t flood.

“There’s the old Seneca River bed that runs close to the practice field and stadium, and all 1,700 acres of Clemson drains into that old Seneca river bed. So, the Corps runs a pumping station there. When it rains we run two huge diesel pumps from the river bed into the lake to keep Clemson from flooding,” Wahus said.

According to Wahus, should those pumps fail, about two feet of water would flood Clemson’s practice field and water would rise to the ninth row of seats in Death Valley.

WNEG News will continue to monitor the lake level situation and bring you the latest information as we get it.