Duke is paying for the study by the Strom Thurmond Institute as part of its effort to get a new 50-year federal license for its plants on Lake Jocassee and Lake Keowee at the headwaters of the Savannah River, upstream from Lake Thurmond. The current Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license expires in 2016.
Part of that effort is an attempt to show the effect the hydroelectric plants have had on the water quality, water quantity, fish and wildlife habitat and other factors in the region bordered by the river, according to Sandra McGee, a company spokeswoman. McGee said the water flowing into Lake Thurmond from Keowee and Jocassee is a drop in the bucket compared to the flow from local tributaries and rainfall.
The Institute will study the effects of the drought on McCormick County in South Carolina and Georgia's Lincoln Country, two areas that border Lake Thurmond.
A similar study on the effects of the drought on Lake Hartwell found the lower lake levels affected the area's local economy by about a tenth of 1 percent. The finding for Lake Thurmond could be different because the local economies surrounding the two lakes are so different.
Lake Hartwell is traversed by the heavily-traveled Interstate 85 and it's border counties are populated by more than 300,000 people while the biggest towns near Lake Thurmond are home to about 10,000 people each.