Corps of Engineers tests floodgates for first time since 2007

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

News 12 at 11 o’clock / Thursday, July 11, 2013

CLARKS HILL, S.C. (WRDW) -- A lot of people saw water other than rain as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the floodgates for the first time since 2007.

Twenty-two waterfalls flowed out of Thurmond Lake and into the Savannah River. It was a sight to see from the outside, but inside the dam, it was about a lot more than just the view.

“You’re looking for stress points, is there any cracking, bending, things like that that shouldn't be there,” said Operations Project Manager Scott Hyatt.

It was a test of the floodgates. More than a dozen people spent the day testing every aspect both inside and out making sure they'll hold.

“That’s what this project was built for was to protect the Augusta area and downstream from flooding,” Hyatt said.

They tested 22 of the 23 floodgates, opening each one up around 1 foot for about 45 minutes.

“It's really great to do it when the lake is this high because you have the maximum load that you can have on these gates, so if you're gonna have a problem when you're running them in an emergency, these are the types of conditions that you're gonna have,” Hyatt said.

“Everything went well. There were a couple little minor problems, but the project people know what to do and they fixed it, no problems," added Dam Safety Manager Don Smith.

Using the floodgates is uncommon, but when it's needed, they have to make sure they work correctly.

“Right now there's a whole lot of water in the system,” Hyatt said. “We've got tropical season, we've got tropical storms or tropical rainfall that may be coming, so making sure this stuff is functioning the way it should be is critical right now.”

They say they have no expectations of having to use the floodgates anytime soon, but you never know.

“On Hartwell they had to open them the other morning at that was the third time in the history of the project that they'd had to do it,” Hyatt said.

If the floodgates weren't there when the lake reached flood level, the water would flow over the dam uncontrollably, so the gates allow them to control that water flow a little bit.

Right now, Thurmond is the only place in the system with any flood storage and we have about 3 feet, so following Thursday's test, they increased the flow back to a fairly high level and are expecting it to stay pretty high for the next few weeks.

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