UPDATE: Brookfield Renewable releases plans for tunnel inspection that will include significant drawdown of Hawks Nest Lake

FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – Brookfield Renewable in Gauley Bridge officially announced on Wednesday that a project at Hawks Nest Dam will begin on September 8.

This project will have an impact on water levels at the Hawks Nest Lake and other recreation areas as they hope inspect the Hawks Nest Tunnel for needed repairs, something the company says has not been completed since its construction in the 1930s.

Brookfield Renewable, who owns the Hawks Nest Dam, released the following information on closures and impact:

“As this is a project of large magnitude, there are going to be impacts to the region, including public access and recreation. These impacts include:

  • Closure of the “Hiking & Biking Trail” at Cotton Hill Bridge near the dam. This closure is currently in place due to work associated with this project and  will remain intact until completion of the project.
  • Beginning on August 24th, 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 purposes 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 throughout the duration of the project and will begin to come back up on or around November 8th.
  • The area known as the “Dries” will be flowing with the full flow of the New River during this time. This could be public safety issue for paddlers. Recreators should be aware that the amount of water in the “Dries” will be consistent with the Thurmond gauge for the New River.

Brookfield Renewable’s Sr. Director of Strategic Relationships Andy Davis said, ‘This project is critical to dam safety & public safety. 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 kickoff on September 8th and will likely last through November 8th. This project is weather dependent, and tentative dates are subject to change based on weather and a number of other factors.”

 

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Original Story:

The beloved New River Jet Boat will not be hitting the water in 2020. But before you blame it all on COVID-19, new owner Bobby Bower says they are now facing a much bigger obstacle. 

“The new, biggest challenge is Brookfield Renewable Power that owns Hawks Nest Dam is undergoing a project where they’re draining Hawks Nest Lake up to 23 feet for at least two months,” he said. “So that’s forced us off the water for 2020, the final nail in the coffin so to speak.” 

Brookfield Renewable Power wants to repair the dam that they use to create hydro power at their plant just outside of Gauley Bridge.

In order to do this, they must drain the Hawks Nest Lake. Since taking over the jet boat business in March, Bower’s heard rumors that the company would only drain in the single digits.

He says he has been left in the dark holding off his season wondering what was happening up until yesterday when he received the message that the company would drain 23 feet beginning September 9. 

“I think the people of West Virginia deserve to know that they’re going to lose a really cool fishery and a really neat recreation area,” Bower said. “And it’s hard to plan on doing business when you don’t have good information from the utility.” 

According to Brookfield, they are still finalizing the plans before they release to the public but wanted to give their stakeholders a heads up.

Not only is Bower concerned about how long the project could possibly take, he is worried about where the fish are going to go and the pollutants that could be washed downstream if it rains in the dried up lake.

As a business owner in these uncertain times where the uncertainty for him has now been doubled, Bower is trying to look ahead. 

“We’re going to try to stay positive. It’s a super cool attraction, brings lots of people into the state from all over the world,” Bower said. “And we’ll be back. We just have to find some water to run on.” 

Brookfield plans to release their full plans to the public in the coming weeks.

Anna Saunders
Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.