Corps Warning Anglers of Releases from Greers Ferry Dam

By Arkansas Game and Fish

First posted on 12-10-2009

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reminding fishermen to expect releases from Greers Ferry Dam as officials evacuate flood water stored in the lake. Forecast rainfall could delay the operation.

In accordance with the approved water control plan for the reservoir, the seasonal regulating stage changes Dec. 1 each year. If floodwater is being stored in the lake during the agricultural growing season, releases are timed not to exceed a 13-foot stage at Georgetown. Of course heavy rain below the dam can cause the stage to rise well above 13 feet, and this has occurred several times this year, which has been abnormally high in rainfall.

Then on Dec. 1 each year after farmers have had time to harvest crops from low-lying fields, the seasonal operating stage is raised to 21 feet at Georgetown. This enables the Corps to evacuate floodwater in the lake more quickly in case of future flood-producing rains.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission District Fisheries Supervisor Tom Bly says the Corps is currently evacuating the flood pool on Greers Ferry by running both generators and spilling water through the gates. “Flows are approximately 15,000 cubic feet per second, a little more than twice full capacity through the generators. At Zebs Shoal, water levels are about four feet higher than two units of generation,” Bly said. “I have seen higher flows during flood events, but never this high for a sustained period. It looks like they will have the lake down to pool by Christmas barring any major rain events,” he added.

The difference this year from most others is that repeated heavy rains have filled the lake much fuller than is usual this time of year. Therefore, a combination of releases through the hydropower plant turbines and spillway releases will be required. While this is normal procedure, spillway releases have not been required from Greers Ferry to supplement turbine releases to maintain a 21-foot stage since 1983.

Combined turbine and spillway releases are not expected to exceed 15,000 cubic feet per second.

Officials caution anglers downstream from the dam to be extra vigilant because currents will be strong and swift when the larger releases are being made. Officials also advise downstream boat dock owners to ensure their docks are properly secured to withstand high flows. Owners of docks on Greers Ferry Lake are being advised to move their docks as needed to prevent them from grounding as the lake recedes.

Greers Ferry is one of six Corps lakes in the White River Basin that helps reduce the frequency and severity of floods. Releases from two of the other lakes, Bull Shoals and Norfork, were altered earlier this week as the seasonal regulating stage increased. There, too, moderate spillway releases are being made in conjunction with releases through the power plant turbines to safely evacuate floodwater stored in the lakes.

The water control plans for the lakes in the White River system are comprehensive in nature and attempt to balance benefits throughout the basin. These plans have been in use for many years and were developed through extensive public involvement as well as various perspectives from local, state, and federal entities.

Information regarding lake levels and power generation is available at http://www.swl-wc.usace.army.mil, under the Daily Reports (Little Rock District Lakes Pool Forecast) or Real-time Data (Reservoirs) headings.