SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will draw down Summersville Lake below its normal pool for a second straight year in hopes of making repairs to the dam’s spillway.
The controlled release of water from the lake will begin this weekend as the Gauley River rafting season gets started down stream. The release will happen each weekend through October 20. However, the water will continue to drop an additional 55 feet to clear the spill gates at the base of the dam.
“Those gates remain open at all times so we can pass water through the conduit that goes through the dam to the tailwater,” said Summersville Lake Manager Toby Wood. “By lowering the water to that level we can put divers in the water to go down and inspect those gates.”
The inspections are required every ten years. Last year was the ten year inspection, but engineers ran into a problem with the seals which allow the tubes to be dewatered. The Corps hopes this year they can fix the problem with the seal and enable the inspection to be completed.
“There are systems of filler valves and other equipment. We hope it’s just a simple fix,” Wood said. “There is no issue with how the dam operates because of this. It’s a matter of sealing off that tunnel so we can get manpower down in the tunnel. That’s what we’re trying to achieve.”
Wood said the target is to have the water pulled to the lowest level by November 4. Once there, boating the lake will not be possible.
“That is when there will be no boating access on the reservoir,” he said. “All our our good access points will be high and dry and we don’t’ have any good way to get boats on the lake.”
Wood said the plan is for the water to remain at the low mark for no more than two weeks when they begin to refill the reservoir to the usual winter pool and enable boating activities to resume.