Corps to test gates at Russell Dam June 23

USACE, Savannah District
Published June 16, 2021

Dam safety officials from the Savannah District, U.S Army Corps of Engineers will test the spillway gates at Richard B. Russell Dam on the Savannah River next week.

On Wednesday, June 23, beginning near noon, teams will test all the spillway gates at the Corps’ hydropower dam near Elberton, Georgia. The test will last approximately 45 minutes. Gates will open only about 1 foot. All gates may or may not be opened at one time during the test, depending on the need of the examination at the time.

The public may attend the test but must stay out of the water downstream of the dam due to strong currents and heavy turbulence. Based on past tests, crowds are expected. Social precautions should be taken. Drones are not allowed near or above the dam, including in adjoining parks.

For the Russell Dam test, the public may park in designated areas below the dam in Georgia. Motorists must not park on public roads or on the dam. Park rangers will direct traffic. Local authorities will enforce the “no parking and no stopping” laws on state highways. Pedestrian access at the vehicle traffic gate will be closed. The public will not have pedestrian access to the fishing pier area due to safety and security concerns. Restroom facilities are located at the overlook pavilion area just up the hill from the main parking area. The address for the Russell Dam Project: 4144 Russell Dam Drive, Elberton, Georgia.

“We scheduled the Richard B. Russell Dam spillway gate test for just a few weeks after National Dam Safety Awareness Day, May 31,” Lucia Wimberly, Dam and Levee Safety Program Manager for the Savannah District, said. “May 31 was established as NDSAD to commemorate the failure of South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which occurred that day in 1889. More than 2,200 people died because of the flood wave that resulted from the South Fork Dam failure. Investigators determined the dam failed from overtopping, which happened because of an inadequate spillway.”

The Corps of Engineers likes to regularly test the spillway gates at their dams to ensure that they are functioning properly, according to Wimberly. “This ensures the gates will open as intended, if ever necessary for a flood event,” she said.

Since construction, the Russell Dam spillway gates have never opened because of a flood event. The dam and lake project has always been able to contain floodwaters within the lake, or by sending water downstream through the turbines while generating clean, renewable, electric energy.

While the release gives a spectacular view, the actual effect of the release on reservoir levels is minimal. All Savannah District reservoirs are currently at or above full summer levels.


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Billy Birdwell, Senior Public Affairs Specialist
912-677-6039 (cell)

Release no. 21-014