Lake Thurlow to be lowered further

(Carmen Rodgers) Work has begun on Thurlow dam's spillway gates and Alabama Power officials announced that water levels could drop an additional 10 feet.

Alabama Power officials announced water levels on Lake Thurlow will drop an additional 10 feet due to work underway on Thurlow Dam's spillway gates.

Water levels on Lake Thurlow were lowered 4 feet Saturday as part of spillway gate replacement at the dam. Work on the first phase took place last summer and the first drawdown of Lake Thurlow began May 6 when water levels dropped 6 feet over a three-day period and the lake was held between 282 and 283 feet. During the second drawdown, water levels will be held between 278 and 279 feet.

According to Alabama Power, this drawdown is needed to finish replacing the dam's remaining spillway crest gates, also known as flashboards. The original spillway gates were installed in the 1920s.

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

"The new gates will allow better control of the flow over the spillway," Thurlow Dam superintendent Joel Johnson said.

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 and resemble the historical look of the original dam.

Decades ago, locals 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 months to take advantage of the warmer, drier weather.

While work is being done at Thurlow, nearby recreation locations remain available to the public, including the 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.