Officials in Columbus today are preparing for a Chattahoochee River surge from heavy rains that flooded Atlanta.
Georgia Power opened the third flood gate on Oliver Dam, just north of J.R. Allen Parkway, at 2 p.m. That will likely put most of the Chattahoochee Riverwalk, a Columbus path that runs from Lake Oliver to Fort Benning, under water, said Georgia Power spokesman Robert Watkins.
The riverwalk in downtown Columbus was about a foot above the river at noon when the power company had two flood gates open.
“We have pulled the lakes down to get as much of the water out of the way as we could,” said Georgia Power spokesman Robert Watkins.
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The power company operates three hydroelectrict dams between West Point Lake and downtown Columbus.
The West Point dam is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and managed partly for flood control.
“When West Point releases, we deal with it the best we can,” Watkins said.
Tuesday morning the West Point Lake level was 637.7 feet above sea level, 2.7 feet above full pool. That lake is the first stop south for the heavy flood waters moving out of metro Atlanta on the Chattahoochee.
David Barr, a supervisor park ranger with the Corps of Engineers, said he was confident West Point Lake could handle the waters without heavy flooding downstream.
“The river should stay within its banks,” Barr said. “For the most part, we are good to go.”
Late this morning, the Corps was releasing 39,200 cubic feet per second from the West Point dam. The average flow is about 17,000 cfs. For much of this summer, as the Corps has held water back at West Point, the flow has been around 5,000 cfs.
“When it reaches 50,000 cfs, that is when you will see the water exceed the banks and get in people’s back yards,” Barr said. “We have been told it shouldn’t be any more than 45,000 cfs today.”
The Columbus Water Works has been taking precautionary measures to shore up its sewage treatment facility, which is in the flood plain south of Oakland Park.
Large sewage spills occurred as the R.M. Clayton plant in northwest Atlanta went under water.
The Columbus utility has moved all of its farming equipment to higher ground and secured its water-tight doors.
“We’re doing what we can do,” said Water Works President Bob Tant. “But if the plant goes under water, then we have lost all control. If the water gets high enough, all bets are off.”