Byllesby Dam repairs to fix flood damage

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

ROANOKE — Work that Appalachian Power has begun on Byllesby Dam goes well beyond replacing the flash boards knocked out of the emergency spillway during a New River flood, according to company officials.

The electric utility in March mobilized crews to the dam — located in Carroll County next to the New River Trail State Park — to tackle a variety of needs through November, according to spokesman John Sheppelwich and Jim Thrasher, energy maintenance superintendent.
This means continuing the disruption of recreational uses around the dam, after the severe January 2013 storm that for a time caused fears about the facility’s structural integrity.
The canoe portage remains closed, the spokesman confirmed. Another access point to the river is available on Rock Hill Road at the end of Virginia 736.
It took time to get the appropriate permission from overseeing agencies for the dam to undergo repairs, Sheppelwich said. That’s necessary any time that flow to a dam or storage of water is interrupted.
“You have to go through the process of getting approval, permits to do the work,” he explained. “It took a little time to get all the ducks in a row.”
The January 2013 flood precipitated a need for significant work on the more-than-100-year-old facility, said Thrasher. Reports rated the 2013 weather event as the fifth largest flood known, with 1940’s incident considered the “flood of record.”
Dredging the pond behind the dam should begin in earnest soon with barges and cranes scooping material out of the river.
Other work will involve structural repairs on the water intake, replacing the flashboards and concrete restoration, Thrasher said. Divers will be used to restore the water intake.
“We’ve got a total of five contractors that will be working, a lot of the time simultaneously,” he said. “We will spend in excess of $2 million this year.”
The storm rendered one turbine at Byllesby “unserviceable” and caused minor damage to others. Repairs on those will wait until next year.
As a result, Byllesby has been offline, he said. Similar repairs had to be made to Buck, the downstream dam, last year, but it was only offline for a month.
Buck can withstand a flood better because it was designed differently than Byllesby, Thrasher said. “Whatever’s in the river, Byllesby takes it full force.”
Byllesby receives a significant amount of public attention, in part because of the recreational uses of the river, Thrasher said.