Thurmond Dam floodgate test delights spectators

Thursday, July 11, 2013 5:08 PM
Last updated Friday, July 12, 2013 12:12 PM
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CLARKS HILL, S.C. — Huge crowds jammed highways and roadsides Thursday to enjoy a rare glimpse of water cascading from Thurmond Dam’s floodgates.

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The Army Corps of Engineers' test at Thurmond Dam drew a crowd Thursday.  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
The Army Corps of Engineers' test at Thurmond Dam drew a crowd Thursday.

“It’s like Niagara Falls for Augusta,” said Beverly Cullipher, who joined an estimated 1,000 spectators who picnicked, took photos and socialized while enjoying the view – and the roar of falling water – during the two-hour gate test.

“It was well worth the walk,” said Ryan Tripp, of Aiken, who took time off work to take his three sons – Ben, Brayden and Barrett – to the Below Dam recreation area to enjoy the show.

The Army Corps of Engineers opened 22 of the dam’s 23 spillway gates from one to two feet apiece to make sure the recently renovated gates perform properly should an emergency release of water be required. The gates are designed to open more than 20 feet.

Although the falling water offered a spectacular view, it did not add to the volume of floodwaters already flowing downstream toward Augusta.

The dam’s seven hydropower turbines have been generating large volumes of electricity with excess water from recent rains, but six of those turbines were shut down while the gate test was underway, corps spokesman Billy Birdwell said.

The net effect was actually a small decrease in river flow during the gate tests, he said, but the flow increased again when the gates were closed and the turbines resumed operation.

The test was the first time in more than six years the gates have been opened. Similar tests were conducted this week at lakes Hartwell and Russell, but those events didn’t draw nearly the crowds that gathered at Thurmond Lake.

“We had about 400 people at the Hartwell test and about 200 at Russell,” Birdwell said.

Although the lakes have been well below full pool in recent years because of long droughts, the corps has occasionally needed to open the gates for emergency water releases.

On Feb. 7, 1998, for example, heavy winter rains pushed Thurmond Lake up to 335.57 feet above sea level – more than five feet above full pool – prompting an emergency opening of all 23 spillway gates.

Corps officials estimate it will take from 18 to 45 days before the lake is reduced to its normal full pool of 330 feet.

The river continued to swell downstream, where boat ramps, parks, marinas and sections of Riverwalk Augusta were inundated and closed.

According to the U.S. Geologic Survey’s monitoring gauges below Augusta, the river’s flow was more than 47,000 cubic feet per second on Thursday afternoon, and the pool level was approaching 118 feet above sea level – or the official flood stage.

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itsanotherday1
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itsanotherday1 07/11/13 - 05:02 pm
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It doesn't take much to

It doesn't take much to entertain us in Augusta does it?

"Huge crowds jammed highways and roadsides Thursday to enjoy a rare glimpse of water cascading from Thurmond Dam’s floodgates."

Karen Slater-McDaniel
3100
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Karen Slater-McDaniel 07/11/13 - 07:33 pm
12
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Had some DAM fun ...

It was actually a pretty awesome site. Picnicking with Maryland's Fried Chicken & cold drinks ... The heat was bad but the kids enjoyed it.

tl-bro
180
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tl-bro 07/11/13 - 07:37 pm
3
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Govt management

Let me get this straight - at a time when we are already experiencing natural floods, the Corps decides to "test" flood gates to send even more water downstream. The lake is a resorvoir - it's designed to hold water back during these times. It can hold over 335 level and all that's flooded is pine trees. Did anyone think it might be a good idea to delay this man-made flood test another 90 days?

bdouglas
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bdouglas 07/11/13 - 07:49 pm
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@tl-bro

Did you miss this part?

"The net effect was actually a small decrease in river flow during the gate tests, he said, but the flow increased again when the gates were closed and the turbines resumed operation."

triscuit
3223
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triscuit 07/11/13 - 08:35 pm
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Would be nice if we caught a

Would be nice if we caught a break on electricity prices since they are generating larger than normal volumes of power. Probably selling it elsewhere.

itsanotherday1
47013
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itsanotherday1 07/11/13 - 10:37 pm
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They are selling it

They are selling it elsewhere. They are under contract with power entities to sell the power on the grid just like oil or any other commodity.

Riverrunner30909
149
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Riverrunner30909 07/12/13 - 01:46 am
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triscut
Unpublished

The power from Clarks Hill has never be used for augusta to the extent that you would even notice this goes on the national grid mostly.

corgimom
36811
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corgimom 07/12/13 - 06:05 am
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12
You're so Augusta if you

You're so Augusta if you think that "water over the dam" is a big social event.

justthefacts
24061
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justthefacts 07/12/13 - 06:16 am
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Pretty cool

I bet the kids were really excited to see it. Nothing like the wonder in a child's eye when they see something new like this. Bet the adults enjoyed it too.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 07/12/13 - 08:00 am
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Cool

This was cool to me too...maybe I'm so Augusta & just don't know it!!

:):)

itsanotherday1
47013
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itsanotherday1 07/12/13 - 09:07 am
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The last time this happened

The last time this happened was cool weather and school was in. Maybe the crowds were mostly young people?

Sweet son
11096
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Sweet son 07/12/13 - 10:33 am
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"Dam" you guys that make fun of an event that provided

an environment for fun, relaxation, family time and information. As my Mother always said "if you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all."

Great story Rob Pavey and great pictures Jim Blaylock!

CricketSeranade
593
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CricketSeranade 07/12/13 - 10:54 am
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Some people don't have a lick of sense

For instance, the guys in the first video around the 1 minute mark standing on top of the wall. If they were to get vertigo there would be nothing to stop them from falling in. The same with the little blond haired girl in pink in the second video around the 30 second mark. If she started to fall in, no one would be able to reach her in time to save her.

It's fine if you want to look, just be safe about it.

Karen Slater-McDaniel
3100
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Karen Slater-McDaniel 07/12/13 - 11:16 am
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Dam fun for ALL ages ...

There were people there of ALL ages. By around noon Below Dam Park (SC side was full & closed) and everyone was diverted to GA side. Maryland's Fried Chicken around 12:30 was packed solid. The gas station at Pollards Corner was packed. Lots of families enjoying themselves, taking pictures & watching something that most have never witnessed.

Gage Creed
18920
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Gage Creed 07/12/13 - 02:28 pm
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Only thing missing was the

Only thing missing was the wooden barrels going over the falls... er dam...

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 07/12/13 - 02:55 pm
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Just had to jump into this

Just had to jump into this dam conversation. That's all i got.

Doug Duncan
348
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Doug Duncan 07/13/13 - 08:34 am
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Video

Great video! Thanks Jim!

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