Flood Control, Electric Power, and Recreation
On the upper Savannah River near Elberton, Ga., and Calhoun Falls, S.C. lies the Richard B. Russell Dam and Lake — authorized for construction by the Flood Control Act of 1966 for the purposes of hydropower generation, recreation and flood control. Originally known as Trotters Shoals, the dam site is situated about midway between the J. Strom Thurmond and Hartwell dams and lake projects of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District.
The Russell Project
Construction of the Russell project by the Corps' Savannah District was initiated in 1976. The District began filling the lake in October 1983. The lake reached its full power pool elevation of 475 feet above mean sea level in the winter of 1984 and covers 26,650 acres of land. in all, about 52,000 acres of land were required for the lake inundation, the dam, road and railroad relocations, project operations and recreational areas.
The Dam's structure and Hydroelectricity
The Russell Dam consists of a 1,884-foot long gravity structure of about 1.1 million cubic yards of concrete with a maximum height of 195 feet — flanked by two earth embankments of about 2.9 million cubic yards of zoned material. The Georgia side embankment is 2,180 feet long, and the South Carolina embankment is 460 feet long. The spillway section contains 10 Tainter Gates, each 50 feet wide and 45 feet high. There are five sluice gates with a width of 5 feet, 8 inches, and a height of 10 feet.
The powerhouse has four 75-megawatt conventional turbine-generating units and four 75-megawatt pumped storage units. The project is designed as a peaking plant, with an installed capacity of 600 megawatts — which makes it the largest Corps hydroelectric project in the southeast. The pumped storage feature allows water, after it has passed through the generating unis, to be pumped back into the lake for reuse in generating power.
Millwood, Example of a Flooded Site
Located on the Savannah River about 5 miles west of the town of Calhoun Falls, S.C., Millwood was the site of a large plantation built in 1833 by James E. Calhoun (Colhoun), brother-in-law and cousin of John C. Calhoun, American statesman and Vice President of the United States. Millwood was a concentrated village allowing overseers to exercise control over 200 slaves, livestock, storage facilities and workshops. One of the first structures built was a gristmill and millrace, completed in 1834. Turbines for the mill were powered by water with a 14-foot drop.
Excavation of the site uncovered the foundation remains and debris from about 45 structures inhabited until 1889. In all, Millwood consisted of about 10,000 acres of land. Major crops were cotton and corn. After the decline of the cotton economy following the Civil War, Calhoun faced great financial losses. The concentrated population of tenants, overseers and slaves were dispersed to about one house per 30-40 acres. Numerous small fields replaced the large plantation ones, and a network of roads was built to maintain contacts. Calhoun managed to keep most of his land by renting to tenants and by leasing the use of water power and a gold mining operation. Following Calhoun's death in 1889, a board of trustees continued to rent and manage the estate. The main village became a locally popular "resort' in the 20th century. Duke Power Company acquired the property in the 1940s to develop hydroelectric power. Upon learning of the plans for the Richard B. Russell Dam and Lake project, the company used the land instead for pulpwood cultivation.