By Billy Birdwell, Senior Public Affairs Specialist
Next week on July 10 and 11, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will conduct required tests of the spillway gates at all three dams on the upper Savannah River (Hartwell, Richard B. Russell and J. Strom Thurmond).
These tests will ensure the gates work properly and can be activated in the event of an emergency to protect the dam, plus people and property downstream.
During the tests, we will open the spillway gates 1 to 2 feet to give safety experts the opportunity to evaluate the gates’ readiness. These checks must be performed periodically in keeping with the Corps of Engineers’ Dam Safety Program.
We chose this time to conduct the inspections because spring and summer rains have filled each reservoir into the flood-storage area, putting each above “full pool.”
Keep in mind that while the tests look visually dramatic, they will have only a minimal impact on reservoir levels.
We will begin the tests at the Hartwell Dam, the uppermost of the three dams. By doing so, we can use the same water to test the Russell and Thurmond dams.
The tests will lower Hartwell Lake only about 3 inches and will have little net impact on the other reservoirs. Hartwell Lake was almost 2 feet above full pool on July 1.
Due to the rapid increase in water flow during the test, swimmers and boaters should avoid the area immediately downstream from the dams.
The public may observe the tests from designated viewing and parking areas at each location. Parking is limited at all locations.
Here’s the testing schedule and the designated public viewing locations at each dam:
- Hartwell Dam: Wednesday July 10 from 1 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Visitors can observe the test from the fishing pier below the dam on the Georgia-side of the river. Rangers will direct traffic. (Visitors with valid handicapped parking stickers should call 888-893-0678 in advance for instructions.) No parking, stopping or pedestrians will be allowed on the Highway 29 bridge.
- Russell Dam: Thursday July 11 from 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Visitors can watch the test from the South Carolina overlook and the Georgia fishing pier area. For questions, contact the Visitors Center at 800-944-7207.
- Thurmond Dam: Thursday July 11 from 1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Visitors can watch the test from Below Dam S.C. Park on the South Carolina side of the river. For questions, contact the Visitors Center at 800-533-3478.