SAVANNAH, Ga. - On July 10 and 11 the Corps of Engineers will conduct required tests of the spillway gates at its three dams on the upper Savannah River.

The tests will ensure the gates work properly and can be activated in the event of an emergency to protect the dam plus people and property downstream.

Tests will be conducted at Hartwell Dam, Russell Dam, and Thurmond Dam.

During the tests the spillway gates will be opened 1 to 2 feet to give safety experts the opportunity to evaluate the gates' readiness. These checks must be performed periodically in keeping with the Corps of Engineers' Dam Safety Program.

Savannah District officials chose this time to conduct the inspections because spring and summer rains filled each reservoir into the flood-storage area putting each above "full pool."

The test, while visually dramatic, will have only a minimal impact on reservoir levels. In order to conserve water, safety officials will begin the test at Hartwell Dam, the uppermost of the three. By doing so, the same water can be used to test Russell Dam and then Thurmond Dam.

The test will lower Hartwell Lake only about three inches and will have little net impact on the other reservoirs. Hartwell Lake was almost two feet above full pool on July 1.

Due to the rapid increase in water flow during the test, swimmers and boaters should avoid the area immediately downstream from the dams.

Here's the testing schedule and the designated public viewing locations at each dam:

Hartwell Dam: Wednesday July 10 from 1 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Visitors can observe the test from the fishing pier below the dam on the Georgia-side of the river. Rangers will direct traffic. (Visitors with valid handicapped parking stickers should call 888-893-0678 in advance for instructions.) No parking, stopping or pedestrians will be allowed on the Highway 29 bridge.

Russell Dam: Thursday July 11 from 8:30 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Visitors can watch the test from the South Carolina overlook and the Georgia fishing pier area. For questions, contact the Visitors Center at 800-944-7207.

Thurmond Dam: Thursday July 11 from 1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Visitors can watch the test from Below Dam S.C. Park on the South Carolina side of the river. For questions, contact the Visitors Center at 800-533-3478.

The Savannah District last tested Thurmond Dam and Russell Dam in March 2007. They last tested Hartwell Dam in January 2010. Through its series of dams the Savannah District of the Army Corps of Engineers has provided flood risk reduction, hydropower production, recreation, clean water, navigation control, and environmental protection for the Savannah River since the early 1950s.