GAULEY BRIDGE — Brookfield Renewable, owner of the Hawks Nest Dam, announced Tuesday the company will undertake a project at Hawks Nest Dam beginning on Sept. 8 which will result in the first inspection of the Hawks Nest Tunnel since it was built.
According to a company press release, the project will entail a thorough inspection of the Hawks Nest Tunnel by experts to determine if there is any repair work that is necessary. The inspection will be of the full tunnel with a specific focus on where the penstock (tunnel) meets the powerhouse. Since the construction of the Hawks Nest Tunnel in the 1930s, there has been no such inspection, and the company determined the work was needed in order to ensure public safety, which the company said is its top goal.
The large magnitude project will have impacts on the region, including public access and recreation. These impacts include:
● Closure of the hiking and biking trail at the Army Major Gen. Charles C. Rogers Memorial Bridge near the dam. This closure is already in place due to work associated with the project and will remain in effect until project completion.
● Beginning on Aug. 24, there will be a closure of the tailrace fishing platform and parking area adjacent to the Hawks Nest Hydroelectric station. The closure will remain until completion of the project
● Hawks Nest Reservoir, which was created for the purpose of power generation, will be taken down approximately 25 feet to ensure the safety of those working on the project. Due to the depths and elevation of the reservoir, there will still be significant water in the reservoir for fish and other aquatic wildlife to migrate to, resulting in little to no impacts. The reservoir will be down through the duration of the project and will begin to come back up on or around Nov. 8.
● The area known as the “Dries” will be flowing with the full flow of the New River during the time. This could be a public safety issue for paddlers, according to the release. Recreators should be aware that the amount of water in the “Dries” will be consistent with the Thurmond gauge for the New River.
“This project is critical to dam safety and public safety,” said Brookfield Renewable’s senior director of strategic relationships, Andy Davis. “We understand the impact to the public and have worked to mitigate those impacts.
“Ultimately, while we exhausted all efforts to avoid a significant drawdown on the reservoir, our outside and internal consultants and experts have determined that it is necessary to ensure that our employees and contractors are able to provide this critical work safely. We very much appreciate the public’s understanding as we undertake this large-scale project.”
The project is expected to kick off on Sept. 8 and will likely last for two months. It is weather dependent, and tentative dates are subject to change based on weather and a number of other factors.