After three days of rising waters, West Point Lake is starting to recede.
That’s good news for Columbus as waters from the deadly Atlanta floods continue to push through the middle Chattahoochee River reaches on the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
“Things have settled down,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ranger David Barr, who works on West Point Lake.
They may have settled down, but the lake levels are far from normal. Friday morning, the lake level was 639.09 feet, which is more than four feet above summer full pool. The high-water mark, 639.26 feet, was reached late Thursday.
All six flood gates on West Point Dam are still open and have been since Thursday afternoon. The Corps of Engineers anticipates keeping the current flow of 56,000 cubic feet per second for at least 24 more hours, Barr said Friday morning.
Steady flows continue through Columbus, which is about 40 miles south of West Point and it takes water about six hours to reach Columbus once it is released from West Point dam.
Arnold Lindsay, Georgia Power Co. middle Chattahoochee hydro manager, said the Corps of Engineers has done an exceptional job managing the heavy flows.
“You have to give kudos to the Corps for their flood operations during this event,” he said. “But this is what West Point Lake was built for. They have smoothed out the flows and kept them steady. And they have handled a big surge out of Atlanta.”
Georgia Power manages most of the smaller dams between West Point and Walter F. George in Eufaula. The two most important ones that control the impact on Columbus are Oliver Dam just above the J.R. Allen Parkway and Bartletts Ferry Dam, which creates Lake Harding.
Friday morning four flood gates were open at Bartletts Ferry and six were open at Oliver.
“We will probably have to open another one at Bartletts Ferry before it is over,” Lindsay said.
While the river has stayed within its banks in Columbus, it has spilled over into West Point.
“We have had some minor flooding with a couple of houses that have gone under,” West Point Fire Chief Milton Smith said. “But we don’t see any tremendous impact on living spaces.”
Some streets and public spaces have been flooded, but it does not compare to the major flooding in 2003, Smith said. “We can wash parking lots and sidewalks,” Smith said.