The Union Recorder

December 31, 2013

Sinclair Dam spillway gates opened due to heavy rains

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Excessive precipitation caused Georgia Power to open five spillway gates at Sinclair Dam over the weekend.

As a result, rising Oconee River water levels reached nearly 30 feet Sunday.

Recent rains and the related river flooding closed the Oconee River Greenway Monday, Dec. 23. Greenway authority executive director Dr. Heather Langston doesn’t expect the area to reopen until Jan. 6, 2014 at the earliest.

Georgia Power Plant Manager for the Central Georgia Hydro Group Greg Brown said opening the dam’s spillway gates is routine during high flow conditions.

Each gate releases about 10,000 cubic feet of water per second.

“We monitor the inflow into the lakes. There are a number of USGS gauges that we collect data from. We also go by how quickly the lake is rising,” Brown said. “Once the amount of water that is flowing into the lakes is greater than what we can pass with the turbines, then we will open gates to try and match the outflow through the dam with the inflow into the lake.”

Brown said the dams don’t have a “tremendous amount of flood control capacity.”

“We have to pass the water as if the dam was not there,” he said.

This past weekend, with the ground already saturated, any rainfall ran off into the streams, river and the lakes causing faster than normal water table elevation.

“At one point we had five gates open at Sinclair. Once the inflows decreased, we started closing them back. Right now, we’ve got one gate left open at Sinclair,” Brown said.

The plant manager expects the final gate to be closed by today.

Crews must clean up Greenway construction debris related to Phase 2 expansion, silt and even some Porta Potties that were swept up in the river current.

Langston said close relationships with Georgia Military College and the Milledgeville Police Department helps evacuate the Greenway during potentially dangerous high water conditions.

Construction crews did have enough time to move equipment to higher ground last week. The lighted areas were powered down as well.

With the river waters receding Monday, Langston evaluated the damage.

The half-mile Lower Fishing Creek Trail survived the rushing waters well, according to Langston. The boardwalk over Phase 1 wetlands remained submerged as of midday Monday.

All the scattered debris, trash cans and other materials uprooted by the flood must be moved by hand.

This tedious process could start Thursday, according to Langston.

The ORG executive director hopes future upgrades including concrete bases for tables and trash cans will reduce clean up time after closings.

Luckily, the new Greenway construction is under warranty for the first year.

Langston said all parties are “learning normal park maintenance” as these floods occur.

For more information about future Greenway events or closing updates, visit oconeerivergreenway.org or Oconee River Greenway on Facebook.