03/04/08 — Corps puts new limit on releases from Falls Lake

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Corps puts new limit on releases from Falls Lake

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on March 4, 2008 1:46 PM

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cut the amount of water released from Falls Lake again Monday, holding back more water for Raleigh and, in turn, leaving users downstream with less.

Reducing the release flow from 51 cubic feet per second to 27 cubic feet per second reduces the amount of water Goldsboro can receive in its intake system on the Neuse River, the city's main water source, by almost half.

But city officials said Monday night they believe that residents of Goldsboro will not notice any difference.

"Goldsboro will continue to have enough of a water supply," Public Utilities Director Karen Brashear said. "A lot of people don't know what it means (when they say cubic feet per second). They think, 'Oh, it's the end of the world,' but it's not."

A decrease of 24 cubic feet per second translates into about 10,800 gallons a minute and more than 15 million gallons a day. City residents currently use about 4.5 million gallons of water a day.

City officials said the reduction should not directly affect users, since about 17 million gallons will still be released from Falls Lake a day. That amount will allow for 350,000 10-minute showers or 10.6 million toilet flushes daily, and residents will not be asked to reduce their water usage any more than they already have.

Mrs. Brashear said the true test of how much the reduction will affect Goldsboro won't be known until its effects on Clayton are determined. Clayton is the gauge that the Corps of Engineers uses to determine the effects of its actions at Falls Lake, Mrs. Brashear said. Depending on whether the Corps' goal is reached there will determine how much more or less water will be allowed to flow into the Neuse from the lake.

On Feb. 19, the Corps cut the release from Falls Lake from 55 to 50 cubic feet per second, and on April 1, the flow at Clayton is expected to be reduced from a normal flow of 254 cubic feet per second to 184 cubic feet per second.

Over the past couple of weeks, the water level at Clayton has fluctuated from more than 500 to around 200 cubic feet per second, Mrs. Brashear said.

The Corps is permitting slightly more water to pass through Clayton than Corps officials had originally intended, she said, and when the level of water released from Clayton is determined, Goldsboro officials can truly see what the decrease in flow will mean for residents here, she said.

Rain would help the situation.

With 5.88 inches of rain recorded in February --the most rain for that month in five years -- water reserves are somewhat improved, Mrs. Brashear noted. The current Neuse River level isn't quite as high as it was last month, but it isn't nearly as low as it has been for the past year.

And a 50 percent chance of rain today could help maintain that level.

Mrs. Brashear said she has her fingers crossed.

"We love the rain," she said.