Tallulah (GA) Update On Status Of Dam Repair Work
Last week American Whitewater and AW lead volunteers that assist with Tallulah releases met with
GA Power and the Tallulah Gorge State Park to discuss repairs that are taking place on the dam to
repair gates damaged in a heavy rain event back in August of 2010.
First a Little Background
The Tallulah River was one of the first major hydro relicensing successes AW fought very hard for back in the early 1990’s. Since then it has become a staple of the southeast boating scene releasing water into the class IV and V Tallulah River, flowing through the Tallulah Gore State Park, for three weekends in November and two weekends in April.
After years of consistent releases, boating flows were cancelled in the fall of 2007 and the fall of 2008 due to drought. Fall releases in 2010 were cancelled due to damage of the dam gates during a heavy rain event. Spring releases in 2011 seemed to be on track after being rescheduled for May and were then cancelled as work to repair the gates drug on.
Below is an excerpt of a letter that GA Power sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to inform the commission that the repairs to the dam have not been completed. In the letter GA Power states, "Due to the uncertainty that exists at this time, and the lead time and effort required for the whitewater flows, we consider it prudent to cancel the spring whitewater flows for 2011."
More from GA Power letter to FERC
"The repair work on the Tallulah Falls Dam spillway gates has not gone as quickly as we had hoped. This is due partly to weather-related delays and partly due to additional work that had to be done. Considerable work yet remains to be done. The work must be examined and approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission prior to resuming normal operation of the Tallulah Falls Dam.â€¨â€¨Therefore there exists considerable uncertainty as to the date that Tallulah Falls Dam will be operationally able to support the aesthetic flows and whitewater flows through Tallulah Gorge. We recognize that there is very significant effort and considerable lead-time necessary to organize the volunteer force to safely conduct the whitewater flows. We also recognize that the individuals who travel to Tallulah Falls to take part in the whitewater flows do so at considerable expense and commitment of time.â€¨â€¨ Due to the uncertainty that exists at this time, and the lead time and effort required for the whitewater flows, we consider it prudent to cancel the spring whitewater flows for 2011."
The Current Situation
Repair work continues and while the dam gates have been rebuilt, they have still not passed federal inspection. This highlights the national issue of aging dam infrastructure that impacts thousands of dams across the country that are reaching a ripe old age, in the case of this dam about the 100 year mark. Repair work continues and at the time of our meeting, GA Power was unable to commit that the work and needed federal inspections would be completed by the fall boating releases of 2011.
Participants in the meeting agreed to a monthly GA Power update that would keep all stakeholders informed of dam repair status. American Whitewater is advocating for an additional release weekend added to spring releases of 2012 to make up for some of the lost opportunity caused by these repairs. While GA Power is comfortable with this request, Tallulah Gorge State Park had some apprehension due to deep budget cuts that have hit the Park and reduced staffing levels.
Additional information will be posted to the American Whitewater website as it becomes available.