Dam repairs take lake to loooow pool

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The repair project on Foster Dam has left most of the north side of Foster Lake exposed, including an old roadway paralleling North River Drive.

The end of the road is usually visible from the north Quartzville bridge. Now, from the bridge, it can be viewed sweeping past the embankment to the west to Lewis Creek Park and beyond. Foundations of homes are reportedly visible.

Residents of the north side of the lake must travel a couple of extra miles around the lake to get to and from Sweet Home.

But the crew working on Foster Dam is staying busy and is on target to finish by a Jan. 15 deadline. Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot promise, the work on the first of four gates may even be finished early.

“Basically, our contractor is working seven days a week till Christmas,” Corps Public Affairs Specialist Amy Echols said. Foster Dam Road was closed and work started on Nov. 13.

The Corps is repairing faulty trunion bearings and deformed structural members on spillway gate one, the northernmost. Water is passing through gates three and four, the southernmost pair of gates.

Last week the lake elevation decreased to barely less than 600 feet, the distance from the lake surface to sea level. Full summer pool is 637 feet. Winter pool is normally about 613 feet.

The contractor started replacing the trunions on Thursday, Echols said. She expects that to take six to eight days.

“Within the next couple of weeks, we’re going to start removing the deformed steel so the new steel can be welded back in,” she said. The new steel will arrive in mid-December.

Overall, the Corps is in good shape for finishing by Jan. 15, she said. “We’re shooting to finish earlier, but that’s hard to say. Seven days a week till Christmas – That’s pretty committed.”

The Corps plans to operate the lake as usual next summer. It purchased new stop logs that can be used to keep the lake full while a gate is out of service for repairs.

“We don’t have a schedule yet for the other gates,” Echols said. “We’re hoping to complete the work in 2009. We just don’t know yet.”

When the other gates will be repaired depends on logistics and funding, she said. During additional gate repairs, the Corps anticipates road closures.

The Corps is attempting to complete repairs to the first gate now before the rainy season really kicks in to minimize the risk of having four compromised gates.

It’s riskier than doing it during the summer but not as risky as having the gates out of commission after January when there’s more rain, she said.

Green Peter Reservoir remains low as well to assist in flood control, Echols said. Plus, with little rain so far, the Corps must still pass something through to keep flows up in the river downstream.