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For those that attended the DEQ Virginia Water Protection (VWP) Permit meeting in Gretna on Thursday night, I?m sure you found it an interesting evening.
It is apparent the planners did not expect such a large turnout. I want to thank you for taking the time to attend. Your support was what was needed to allow us to have more time to work with the water release protocol and improve it to the benefit of all parties involved. I am now confident we will have another protocol work session in September.
The Tri-county Re-licensing Committee was consistent in our statements that the protocol can and should be improved before it is passed to the Water Control Board. The water withdrawal number, arbitrarily cut in half, needs to be restored. All aspects of lake safety must be considered.
One of the early questions was ?Is there a water-level floor for Smith Mountain Lake?? There was a lot of discussion but not a clear response. The straightforward answer is ?No?. There can be a better balance in the recreational use of both waters. There should be a continuous release rather than auto-cycle release from Leesville Lake. The debris should be cleared from the bateau channel to allow canoeing in the river during dry periods. Additional launch sites should be created on the river to enhance recreational opportunities. All of these latter items have been ignored.
One of the charts shown during the presentation contained a whole bunch of numbers. They were probably unreadable and probably not understood. These numbers represent the flow in cubic feet per second (cfs) at a gauge at Brookneal. This is the target flow for the river by month during normal and dry times. If these targets are met, it is proposed the release from Leesville Dam could be as low as 400cfs in dry times during the summer months and 375cfs during winter months.
I will use today?s circumstances to try to illustrate why I said these numbers cannot be met. Until recently, release from Leesville Dam was 650cfs. Agreement was reached to reduce the release to 500cfs as long as the flow at Brookneal stayed above 600cfs. This was to account for the side flows from other streams between Leesville Dam and Brookneal.
When release was reduced to 500cfs the gauge at Brookneal showed flow less than 600cfs. Therefore, the release from Leesville Lake was increased to 540cfs. It is now up to about 580cfs from Leesville Lake to keep the Brookneal gauge at or above 600cfs. That means that the side flows represent about 20cfs at this time and will probably be less as the dry weather continues. Therefore, if you look at the lowest numbers on the DEQ chart, the only time we can expect to reach minimum release from Leesville Lake would be in September in the years where we are already operating in Trigger 3 conditions. This needs to be reviewed.
One last point, the Water Control Board plans to meet on Oct. 16 to approve the VWP permit. They have until March of next year to take action and still preserve the State?s authority. We have time to get this right.
I am going to be at the Moneta Library from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 16. Please stop by to talk about this or any other topic. I?ll be glad to see you.