After receiving reports of improved hydrologic conditions, the South Carolina Drought Response Committee voted Feb. 23 in Columbia to downgrade the Savannah Basin from the “moderate” category to “incipient.” The Committee declared a moderate drought on Sept. 20, 2006, and maintained the declaration during the Nov. 8, 2006, conference call.
Lake levels in Hartwell, Russell, and Thurmond have returned to near normal according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but without normal rainfall will be at Stage 1 in 14 days. According to George Galleher, Duke Energy lake management manager: “We had above average rainfall in November and December, but January saw below average rainfall and as of Feb. 17 we are below average. Duke Energy continues to think of the Keowee-Toxaway area as being in a drought.”
Reports from forestry and agriculture were cautiously optimistic. According to David Tompkins with the U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Soil moisture is in good shape going into the spring; however, we are dependent on adequate rainfall during the growing season.” Daryl Jones with the S.C. Forestry Commission reported the state is experiencing an average number of fires, but said: “We’re just beginning the fire season with another month and half or so ahead of us. We’re busy, but not abnormally so.”
“In the process of moving from moderate to incipient, the DNR will increase its monitoring and notify the members of the committee in two-week intervals about levels, flows, and rainfalls,” said Alfred Vang, director of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Land, Water and Conservation Division. “If there is a trend that appears to be negative, then we would call a meeting of the committee.”
“We want to maintain our vigilance in monitoring this situation,” said State Hydrologist Bud Badr. “Especially as we are beginning to move into the normally drier or reduced rainfall period of the year in South Carolina.”