Lake Thurlow to be lowered further to finish spillway gate replacement

Water levels on Lake Thurlow will be lowered another 4 feet starting at midnight Saturday, May 18, as part of the ongoing project to replace spillway gates at Thurlow Dam.

The water level at Lake Thurlow is expected to drop by as much as 10 feet over two phases during the project. The first phase of the drawdown began May 6, when Lake Thurlow was lowered approximately 6 feet over three days. The lake was held between 282 and 283 feet during the first phase. During the second phase of the drawdown, the lake will be held between 278 and 279 feet.

The 2019 drawdown is tentatively scheduled to end Dec. 31, with water levels returning to normal.

The drawdown is needed to finish replacement of the dam’s remaining 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 resemble 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.

“This will look and feel like the Thurlow we all know and remember,” Johnson said.

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

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 those 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.

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