Southern Company announced today that they are cancelling (eg postponing) the spring recreational releases on the Tallulah Gorge. The cancellation occured because they decided to conduct emergency maintenance work on a spillway gate atop their 103 year old dam. This decision was in turn based on a February 3, 2017 inspection that revealed weaknesses in the gates, though the Company notes failure of the gates is not imminent. They began drawing the reservoir down on March 15th to reduce pressure on the gates, and initiated additional drawdown on March 26th to prepare for repairs.
Southern Company is required to reschedule these releases by their federal license and the related settlement agreement with American Whitewater and other groups. The settlement agreement states: "If ... emergency conditions occur, [Southern Company] agrees to consult with the boating intervenors to reschedule releases as soon as deemed practicable by [Southern Company]." The work on the gate will be completed in early May, and American Whitewater will work with Southern Company, Tallulah Gorge State Park, and paddling clubs and volunteers to reschedule releases soon thereafter. American Whitewater will also be requesting improved coordination and communication from Southern Company.
The Tallulah Falls dam has largely dewatered Tallulah Gorge since 1914. Recreational releases on Tallulah began in 1997 based on several years of negotiations between the power company (then Georgia Power), Tallulah Gorge State Park, American Whitewater, and several other groups. The result was 4 releases each April and 6 releases each November that each draw 200 to 400 advanced paddlers from around the region, the nation, and indeed the world. Paddlers are treated to unique Class IV and V rapids and slides in a scenic gorge. During each release volunteers from regional paddling clubs help the Park host the releases, and spectators line up to watch the Park's inconic waterfalls roar back to life as the water rises.
We'll let paddlers know when the releases will be rescheduled as soon as possible.
Southern Company notice that spring 2017 Tallulah Gorge releases have been cancelled.