Development of the Alabama River for improved navigation was begun in 1963. The navigation system now consists of three locks and dams at Clairborne, Millers Ferry and Robert F. Henry and provides for a 9 foot deep channel from Mobile to near Wetumpka. Millers Ferry and Robert F. Henry allow for the production of hydroelectric power. The entire navigation channel was opened to river traffic in 1972 after completion of the Robert F. Henry lock and dam. In 1992 aprroximately 1,777,000 tons of commerce moved over the waterway. All three dams on the Alabama are owned and operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
In 1968 a cutoff was formed at a horseshoe section of the Alabama River near the Fort Mims historic site. This cutoff was designed to reduce travel time for barge traffic on the river. It reduces the natural distance by about 8 miles.
Together the dams on the Alabama River impound over 35,000 acres of lentic (still) waters, impounding 233 miles of the mainstem river out of a total of 315 total river miles (almost 75% of its length) (Corps, ’98).
The CLAIBORNE LOCK AND DAM which forms CLAIBORNE LAKE is located in Monroe County 15 miles northwest of Monroeville. Construction on the dam was begun by the Army Corps of Engineers in May 1965 and completed in 1976. The navigation locks opened in 1969. Claiborne is the only dam on the Alabama that does not generate hydroelectric power. The dam is situated approximately 60 miles downstream of the Millers Ferry Dam and about 82 miles upstream from the confluence of the Alabama and Tombigbee. It is the southernmost dam on the Alabama River with the remaining 82 miles to its mouth representing the last free-flowing big river habitat remaining in Alabama.
This free-flowing habitat below Clairborne Dam is significant in that historically it has supported high species diversity and an abundance of fish and mussels. (Corps ’98)
Clairborne Lake is the smallest of the reservoirs on the Alabama and covers a surface area of 5,930 acres.
There is an automatic monitoring station downstream that monitors D.O., temperature, pH, and conductivity.
Drainage area = 21,473
Reservoir storage = 96,360
Normal Summer Lake elevation = 35
The MILLERS FERRY LOCK AND DAM which forms WILLIAM BILL DANNELLY LAKE sits in Wilcox County 10 miles Northwest of Camden. Construction began in 1963 and was completed in 1974. 73 miles downstream of Selma and 142 miles above the mouth. The lock was opened in 1969 and power was on line in 1970. Identical monitoring station as Claiborne. Navigable channel to Robert F. Henry above Selma is 103 miles long. Annual power generation is enough to serve over 53,000 homes. The reservoir is 27 square miles with 500 miles of shoreline. In 1994, approx. 1,660,133 visitors enjoyed the lake. 200 acres of Camden State Park in the Bridgeport area border the lake.
Drainage area = 20,700
Reservoir size = 18,500
Reservoir storage = 331,800
Normal Summer Lake elevation = 80
The ROBERT F. HENRY LOCK AND DAM which forms the R.E. BOB WOODRUFF LAKE sits in Lowndes and Autauga counties, 3 miles north of Benton and 15miles Southeast of Selma. Construction began in 1966, opened to navigation in 1972. Power generation began in 1975. The dam backs up the river to Wetumpka a distance of about 80 miles. Power generated serves about 41,000 homes. In 1994, 1,578,781 visitors utilized public facilities around the lake. The City of Montgomery is located on the lake. 77 miles long and averages 1,300 feet wide. Receives up to 2 million visitors annually.
Drainage area = 16,300
Reservoir size = 12,510
Reservoir storage = 234,200
Normal Summer Lake elevation = 125
In 1997, the Army Corps of Engineers proposed construction of an additional lock and dam for navigational purposes near Choctaw Bluffs, below Claiborne, but then determined the project to be economically unjustifiable.