Thursday, October 8, 2009

DAM'S HISTORY DATES BACK TO 1899


Gantt Dam, pictured above and located six miles north of Andalusia in Covington County, shapes a lake encompassing approximately 2,700 surface acres. To better understand the history of Gantt Dam, one has to travel back to 1899 and take a look at the early days of the town of Gantt, which was originally established one mile east of its present location. At that time it was known as Hamptonville. With the arrival of the railroad in 1899 it was moved to the present location to take advantage of the established rail line. Meanwhile, when the town relocated, it was briefly renamed Christine, after a “very pretty” school teacher by historical accounts. In fact, the very first rail schedule published by Old Central of Georgia Railroad referred to the town as Christine. However, after the school teacher moved from the area, the town was renamed again, this time after Hiram Gantt, patriarch of the Gantt family. Shortly thereafter, Hiram’s son, Beaury Gantt, who was in need of a means of floating logs down the river to his sawmill, built the first dam across the Conecuh River. And, thus the history of the dam had its beginning. In 1920 the Horseshoe Lumber Company built the first hydroelectric plant at the site of a former gristmill at the location and commenced selling electricity in 1922. Point ‘A’ Dam and Power Plant was added in 1926. Point ‘A’ was so named because it was designated as the best site on the Conecuh River for potential hydroelectric power. Both dams failed in March of 1929 when a tropical depression moved through the area dumping record rainfalls. Hurricane Opal threatened, but did not deliver, the same fate in 1995.

Meanwhile, the Alabama Electric Cooperative (AEC) officially began generation and transmission operations in September of 1944 when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission released a ruling that directed Alabama Water Service Company (AWSC), owners of Gantt Dam at the time, to divest its electric generation and water properties. The ruling allowed AEC to acquire a string of small electric generating facilities (ice plants, saw mills, etc) in a number of local communities that were incorporated in the electrical grid. Gantt Dam was one of those acquired in the deal.

Though the dam has little value today in the overall scheme of AEC’s generating capacity, the impact that it has on local economic and environmental issues remains high.

In 2006, the water level in Gantt Lake was lowered approximately five feet to allow homeowners a chance to make necessary repairs on waterfront properties. Required maintenance was also completed on the dam in December of the same year, after which the lake was restored to its previous level.

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