SAVANNAH, Ga. – On July 10 and 11 the Corps of Engineers will conduct required tests of the spillway gates at its three dams on the upper Savannah River. The 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. Tests will be conducted at Hartwell Dam, Russell Dam, and Thurmond Dam.
During the tests the spillway gates will be opened 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. Savannah District officials chose this time to conduct the inspections because spring and summer rains filled each reservoir into the flood-storage area putting each above "full pool."
The test, while visually dramatic, will have only a minimal impact on reservoir levels. In order to conserve water, safety officials will begin the test at Hartwell Dam, the uppermost of the three. By doing so, the same water can be used to test Russell Dam and then Thurmond Dam. The test 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.
The tests begin at Hartwell Dam July 10 at 1 p.m. and will last until 3:30. The test at Russell Dam begins July 11 at 8:30 a.m. and will end at 11. The test at Thurmond Dam begins July 11 at 1:30 p.m. and will end at 4.
The public may observe the tests from designated viewing and parking areas at each location. Parking is limited at all locations.
- At Hartwell Dam 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.
- At Russell Dam visitors can watch the test from the South Carolina overlook and the Georgia fishing pier area.
- At Thurmond Dam visitors can watch the test from Below Dam SC Park on the South Carolina side of the river.
Due to the rapid increase in water flow during the test, swimmers and boaters should avoid the area immediately downstream from the dams.
The Savannah District last tested Thurmond Dam and Russell Dam in March 2007. They last tested Hartwell Dam in January 2010. Through its series of dams the Savannah District of the Army Corps of Engineers has provided flood risk reduction, hydropower production, recreation, clean water, navigation control, and environmental protection for the Savannah River since the early 1950s.
Caption for attached photo: Officials last tested the gates at Hartwell Dam in January 2010. These tests ensure the gates can perform properly in the event of an emergency. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Billy Birdwell)