Reversible turbines at Russell dam will be available for commercial hydro power production from 1 September but – for now – only two of the four units will operate at any given time.

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which built the US$618M Russell project, has been testing the units since June when a federal judge ruled they were safe to operate.

The turbines, designed to pump water from Thurmond Lake back to Russell for reuse in power generation, had not been started since 1996 because of ongoing legal battles over fish kills. So far, tests indicate fish protection measures developed during the years of litigation are effective, USACE spokesman Jim Parker said.

The two-unit restriction on the turbines will remain until USACE completes a US$4.8M dissolved oxygen system designed to improve the open water fishing habitat in Thurmond Lake. USACE agreed to the oxygen system as part of a mitigation and fish protection programme for Russell.