TANEY COUNTY, Mo. – When the Ozarks expects heavy rain, the Army Corps of Engineers are looking for when they might have to release water from area dams.

“The White River dams were installed after the floods of the 1920s because every time it would rain, these rivers would swell up and destroy communities and livestock and crops,” James Townsend with the Army Corps of Engineers in Little Rock said. 

The White River Dams include Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Norfolk, and Beaver Dams. Because of them, Townsend said floods have been avoided in the region.


“Even when they fill up every inch and every foot you start raising the gates,” Townsend said. “It buys us more time. We start getting more storage out of the reservoir, so we’re making smaller releases to avoid larger releases. Once we get back down to the top of the flood control pool, we close them and allow the water to pass.”

Since 2008, Townsend said the region has seen more rainfall in the spring. He said more water isn’t necessarily a bad thing until it threatens agriculture.

“The downstream agricultural interests in eastern Arkansas, that area is the number one rice producing area in the United States, only second to China and rice production,” Townsend said. “So these series of dams protect that interest.” 

The White River Dams do more than just control flooding. They also work to support power for seven states.

“Hydropower can turn on in an instant and supply that peak demand power to the power grid. Same thing it did during that polar vortex or all summer long,” Townsend said. “Almost every day at 5 p.m., we’re going to be generating in most places to meet those peak demands. Same thing when you wake up in the morning.”

Engineers said they do not expect to open the Spillway gates at Table Rock following Thursday’s storm.