Anglers who fish for trout in the White River below Beaver Dam are breathing easier now that electric hydro-power generation at the dam has resumed and cold water is flowing downstream.
Power generation was recently stopped at the dam for routine maintenance on the one generator that is working, said Jay Townsend, spokesman at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District office. Beaver Dam has two generators, but one has been shut down since 2016.
Work has started to repair that generator, Townsend said. The tentative date to have two working generators at Beaver Dam is September 2023, he said.
During that routine maintenance, the corps released surface water from Beaver Lake through spillway gates at the top of the dam. That was fine in April and early May when the surface water temperature was in the high 50s or low 60s. That’s cool enough for trout.
Power generation uses cold water, about 50 degrees, from down deep near the bottom of Beaver Lake. The lake is about 200 feet deep at the dam. That cool temperature is ideal for trout to thrive. Trout can’t live in water much warmer than 68 to 70 degrees.
Fishermen grew concerned as the surface water temperature rose that the flow in the river would become too warm for trout to survive. Many feared we could lose the trout fishery in the White River below Beaver Dam, also called the Beaver tailwater. It was welcome news when power generation resumed a couple of weeks ago.
Now here it is the end of May, and Beaver Lake has once again filled to near capacity because of heavy spring rain. The corps plans to gradually lower the lake level with hydro-electric power generation and spillway releases at the dam, Townsend said.
As the surface water gets hotter through the spring, how will spillway releases affect the trout fishery when the water temperature rises into the 70s and warmer?
Ryan Gary, a trout biologist the the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission who oversees the trout fishery below Beaver Dam, said the spillway releases shouldn’t be a problem as long as cold water is released during power generation. In the last week or so power generation has taken place several hours each day.
“It’s something we’re going to keep our eye on,” Gary said. The corps and Game and Fish officials communicate with each other about water flow issues, he noted.
“We don’t have any control over what the corps does, but they definitely take into consideration any concerns that we have and realize the importance of the trout fishery,” he said.
Once the second generator is fixed, the one generator that is currently in operation will be shut down and similar rewiring work will take place, Townsend said. Again, the goal is to have both generators working by September 2023.
The project involves extensive rewiring and and repair, he noted. Beaver Dam and its two generators are more than 55 years old. The dam was completed in 1966.
One way to keep tabs on power generation and spillway releases at Beaver Dam and other corps dams is to download the free U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District app to your smart phone. It has information on water releases, lake levels and more for Beaver, Table Rock, Bull Shoals and other corps reservoirs.