Lake Thurlow to be lowered ahead of spillway gate replacement

Water levels on Lake Thurlow will be lowered starting at midnight Monday, June 18, ahead of a multiphase project to replace spillway gates at Thurlow Dam.

The water level at Lake Thurlow is expected to drop by as much as 10 feet by midnight on Friday, June 22.

The 2018 drawdown is tentatively scheduled to end Oct. 31, with water levels returning to normal pool level. A similar drawdown is planned for 2019 from June through October.

The drawdown is needed to replace the dam’s spillway crest gates, known as flashboards, which were installed in the 1920s.

The steel replacements, called Obermeyer gates, will be more efficient than the old, 36-gate flashboard system. Obermeyer gates use adjustable, inflatable bladders to control the gates and more accurately manage water resources.

“The new gates will allow us better control of the flow over the spillway,” said Thurlow Dam Superintendent Joel Johnson.

Alabama Power worked with the Alabama Historical Commission and the University of Alabama to research Thurlow Dam when designing the new gates. The dam was built on the site of an early 19th-century textile mill.

The new design will feature only four spans that operate independently across the top of the dam, but will mimic the historic look of the original dam. Decades ago, local boosters promoted Thurlow Dam as the “Niagara of the South” for the way the Tallapoosa River spills over the dam when all the gates were open.

“We wanted to do our best to make sure the improved Thurlow Dam looks like it does now,” Johnson said. “This will look and feel like the Thurlow we all know and remember.”

The work is being done during the summer to take advantage of drier weather.

“While the timing does conflict with the summer recreational season, the summer is when we get the least rain, meaning the work will be done more efficiently than if attempted during our rainy season from November to May,” Johnson said.

While work is being done at Thurlow, nearby recreation locations remain available to the public, including East Bank Tailrace Site, West Bank Tailrace Site and Yates Dam Boat Launch.

Alabama Power reminds individuals with boats and other water-related equipment and facilities to always be alert to changing conditions on company reservoirs and be prepared to take necessary steps to protect property.

Learn more about Alabama Power’s hydro projects at