As summer temperatures rise and the demand for more power to be produced by the Whitney Powerhouse increases, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Whitney Lake wants to remind everyone to use extreme caution and put safety first when visiting the recreation areas downstream of the Whitney Dam.
Because of extreme heat, visitors are likely to see more power generation from the dam to support the electric grid, which means large amounts of water moving downstream. When power generation takes place, there is little or no time for anyone in the area to retreat to higher ground. Warning signs, as well as the warning horn, should be signals of the potential danger to visitors in the area downstream of Whitney Dam. Release of water from the Whitney Powerhouse is immediate at the sound of the first warning horn. While boat launching is permitted from Riverside East, swimming and wading are no longer permitted from USACE managed access areas behind the dam.
The two turbines in the Whitney Powerhouse release about 3,000 cubic feet per second each. For comparison, a cubic foot is roughly the size of a basketball. The turbines operate in a mode referred to as Responsive Reserve Service. RRS is an ancillary service sold to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas which provides an automatic response to support a stable electric grid. This service is instrumental in preventing brown outs and black outs. Because of the RRS service, when the warning horn sounds, releases are immediate and a large amount of water will cause a powerful surge to rush downstream. Visitors will see this automatic response used to support the electric grid during the heat of summer.
USACE also advises caution when fishing along the banks of the Brazos River from USACE land below the dam. The changes in the rate of release give fishermen very little or no time to retreat to higher ground. As always, visitors are encouraged to wear a life jacket, follow warning signs, and be aware of their surroundings. The dam and lake continue to operate as designed.
Lake Whitney elevation and gate opening information can be found here: http://www.swf-wc.usace.army.mil/whitney/