Carroll dams recovering from floods

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APCo says Byllesby and Buck dams need repairs. Flood damage has impacted recreation near the hydro-electric plants on New River.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

Two hydroelectric dams that faced a crisis during unusually wet weather in January still haven’t fully recovered almost 10 months later, according to Appalachian Power Co. officials.
New River levels after that storm caused flooding and raised concerns about the integrity of the Byllesby and Buck dams and warnings went out for residents to be ready to take action in the case the dams failed at the time, particularly in Wythe County.


Utility company workers broke out the flashboards for the spillway during that heavy precipitation event to cope with New River water levels that threatened the integrity of Byllesby and Buck dams, two facilities that recently celebrated more than a century of generating power.
Though that crisis passed, weather continued to delay replacing those flashboards.
High amounts of precipitation since then means that APCo workers still haven’t been able to replace the flashboards.
Water levels at Byllesby remain lower than usual, resulting in fewer opportunities for recreational uses there. That has concerned Tom Peddy of Galax, who enjoys spending time in the outdoors and the New River.
He looks forward to the repairs being made, so the reservoir will fill back up.
Most dams have provisions for recreational uses as part of their certifications, he explained.
“It really hurt the recreational use of the lake this summer with the lake being down a few feet, and also damages the scenic value along the New River Trail,” Peddy told The Gazette. “You can’t even put a large size motor boat in under current conditions.
“The lake has filled with sand and mud so much over the years it is sad sight with it pulled down all summer.”
The weather put work on the dams out of reach, answered Frank Simms, manager of hydroelectric operations for APCo and parent company AEP.
“The result of releasing the flashboards is that the reservoir level is reduced by approximately nine feet, which also makes accessing the reservoir for recreation purposes difficult until the level is returned to normal,” he told The Gazette in an e-mail.
Replacing the flashboards would return the reservoir to normal, but high amounts of rain after January has made that work a challenge.
Conditions have not allowed this work to take place as river levels have been abnormally high, Simms said.
“Replacement of the flashboards has also been impeded by the debris and sediment that accumulated along the face of the powerhouse and spillway,” he told The Gazette in an email message.  
“That material needs to be removed in order to facilitate flashboard replacement.”
At the same time workers have started removing this debris, the company has also begun the process of obtaining permits to do the same with the sediment, he said.  
“The schedule for returning the reservoir to normal operating level is unknown at this time since it is predicated on items that are out of our control, those being river flows and permit issuance,” Simms said.  “Once a schedule is known, that information will be provided.”