Army Corps announces installation of Jennings Randolph Lake Downstream Early Warning System

Published Oct. 2, 2020

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, has installed a year-round early warning system at Jennings Randolph Lake intended to notify downstream public users of impending rapid increases in water levels, and to evacuate the river immediately to higher ground for their safety.

"Public safety is the Army Corps' absolute top priority," said Ken Fernandez, Jennings Randolph Lake operations project manager. "Jennings Randolph Lake is authorized for multiple purposes, and this new warning system ensures continued safe recreation for our visitors and communities downstream of the lake."

The siren will wail at a high frequency for six seconds, then a low frequency for six seconds, and will continue in that cycle for a total duration of three minutes.

Recreational use at the project includes both in-lake and downstream services. Individuals downstream of the dam, including those at the Barnum Recreation Area and stilling basin, should immediately vacate the river when they hear the siren. When consecutive releases are needed, Jennings Randolph Lake project staff will sound the warning system for each of those releases.

Whitewater rafters should not anticipate vacating the river during whitewater events even though the siren will be used to announce those releases. It is critical for other recreational users, especially those wade fishing, to exit the river when hearing the siren. During that time, water levels released from the dam will increase to levels that are not safe for users to be in the river.

Red warning signs have been placed around recreation and downstream areas to remind public users to leave the river immediately upon hearing the siren.

The Jennings Randolph Lake project staff will conduct monthly maintenance on the warning system, including a cleaning inspection and systems check to ensure the system works properly. The project staff will also test the warning system's siren during this monthly maintenance. The siren test's sound is a low pitch that can only be detected within 100 feet of the warning system. If visitors hear the siren test, they should still vacate the river immediately out of an abundance of caution.

Baltimore District's Water Management team provides a public website with a recorded message updated at least once each day. The site includes the current and three-day forecast for anticipated releases from Jennings Randolph and Savage River dams. The Corps highly recommends all recreational users monitor the three-day forecast website or call 410-962-7687 to obtain updated release information.

The downstream early warning system provides an additional safety layer for the public if unexpected releases are needed.

The Jennings Randolph Lake project controls a drainage area of 263 square miles, reducing flood risks to several communities downstream. Water releases from Jennings Randolph dam serve multiple purposes, including flood risk management, water quality, water supply, environmental stewardship and recreation. Most commonly, the need for releases is following rainfall. 

Brittany Crissman

Release no. 20-026