Just a few miles from a lake that is 10 feet lower than it stood a year ago, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Ken Bedenbaugh anticipated a flood of questions on that subject Tuesday.
A workshop on shoreline management brought more than 70 Lake Hartwell residents to the Civic Center of Anderson, where the lake level was among a wide range of concerns.
The meeting was the first step in an 18-month process to revise Hartwell's shoreline management plan, a subject in an informal, drop-in meeting that also prompted questions about docks, zoning changes and the cutting of underbrush near the shoreline.
The corps will continue to take comments through June 11.
Lake Hartwell Association Director Herb Burnham, a frequent lake visitor since coming to the area in 1974 and a lake resident since 1998, said most of the topics are well-worn. Citing a law-change process that involves federal officials, two states and several counties, Burnham doesn't expect the workshop to trigger any major changes.
"The states make the rules. The Corps of Engineers enforce the rules. Most people on the lake don't realize that," said Burnham, who is among those often frustrated by lake laws "that involve a lot of detail, with not enough leeway."
"Local people need to have more authority, and more ability to do some things based on common sense, " Burnham said. "The rules, over the years, have evolved into too much detail, too much minutia."
Bedenbaugh's staff will collect data and comments from Tuesday's meeting, and others Wednesday in Hartwell, Georgia, and Thursday in Seneca, into a draft of a revised plan that is expected to be completed in September 2018. The Hartwell meeting is scheduled for 4-7 p.m. at the Adult Learning Center on Benson Street. The Seneca meeting is scheduled for 4-7 p.m. at the Gignilliat Community Center.
"We don't foresee any huge changes, but you never know what comments we'll get from the public that could change that," said Bedenbaugh, who listed cutting underbrush as the topic which generates the most questions on a regular basis.
Underbrush is a long-running issue. Property owners typically seek permission to cut trees blocking a view of the lake, Bedenbaugh said, while engineers prefer keeping a "vegetative buffer" between the property owner and the lake.
"Those roots hold the soil. If you take them out, you'd have erosion," Bedenbaugh said. "The trees also provide thermal moderation, giving fish some needed shade, and the roots protect the water source by taking the junk out of the soil."
Shoreline Natural Resources Manager Sandy Campbell anticipated "a wide range" of suggestions. "We'll get a wish list of things, many of them we can't do. But we'll also get some good ideas."