Safety Checks at Hartwell Dam, Others This Week

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will test spillway gates at its three dams on the upper Savannah River this week, including Hartwell Dam.

The tests at Hartwell, Russell, and Thurmond Dams will take place on Wednesday and Thursday.

Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Specialist Tracy Robillard said that the Corps is conducting necessary safety checks on all of the spillway gates.

“Specifically at Hartwell Dam, we have 12 spillway gates there,” said Robillard. “We will have safety officials and they will open the gates about one to two feet and just evaluate (the gates) and check their readiness so in the event that there was ever an emergency and we had to use those spillway gates, we know everything is in working order.”

According to the Corps of Engineers, officials last tested the gates at Hartwell Dam in January 2010.

Robillard said these tests are required periodically in accordance with the Corps’ of Engineers Dam Safety Program.

“Under our Dam Safety Program, we are required to test the dams every three years,” said Robillard. “It has been long overdue for the Russell and Thurmond Dams. This is just a good opportunity to test the spillway gates while all the reservoirs are in flood storage right now.”

The tests will begin at Hartwell Dam on Wednesday at 1 p.m. and last until 3:30 p.m.

The test at Russell Dam will take place Thursday morning, followed by the test at Thurmond Dam on Thursday afternoon.

Robillard said that while the test is visually dramatic, it will have only a minimal impact on reservoir levels.

“Because Hartwell Lake is already in the flood storage, above full pool, this is the perfect time for us to do these tests,” said Robillard. “We can use the same amount of Hartwell to test the Russell and Thurmond Dams downstream. We are looking at little impact on the reservoirs and at Hartwell; we are anticipating about three inches. Either way, the lake is still going to be at full pool after these tests.”

Due to the rapid increase in water flow during the test, the Corps said swimmers and boaters should avoid the area immediately downstream from the dams following the tests.

The public is allowed to observe the tests from designated viewing and parking areas at each location.

At Hartwell Dam, the Corps said visitors can observe the test from the fishing pier below the dam on the Georgia side of the river.

The Corps did say that no parking, stopping, or pedestrians would be allowed on the Highway 29 bridge at Hartwell Dam.