By Tracy Robillard
HARTWELL, Ga. — Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) commemorated Hartwell's 50th Anniversary on April 27, 2012--exactly 50 years from the day in 1962 when the power plant first generated and delivered electricity to the grid.
The Hartwell Dam and Lake Project Office hosted a commemoration ceremony with more than 350 in attendance. The audience included community members, stakeholders, government officials, Corps employees and retirees, and former construction workers who helped build the dam.
The event paid tribute to hundreds of men and women who devoted their time and talents to the Hartwell Project over the last half century. About 15 former construction workers and their families attended the celebration and were presented commemorative coins.
"The heart of this project didn't spring from diagrams and drawings, but rather it stemmed from the ideas in the minds of the visionaries who designed it and the workers who breathed life into it," said Col. Jeffrey M. Hall, Commander of the USACE Savannah District, which operates and maintains the dam.
"I am honored to be here to mark this occasion, and I'm equally proud of our Corps family working here today," Hall said. "They live here and serve this community by providing flood risk management, hydropower, downstream navigation, as well as water supply, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreation."
The keynote address came from Richard Lockwood, Chief of Operations and Regulatory for the USACE Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Lockwood highlighted the need to improve and modernize the nation's infrastructure, as projects like the Hartwell Dam age.
"The infrastructure of our nation needs renewal," Lockwood said. "The folks that built this Monument to Progress, and thousands of others like it, had a vision of greatness and a will to make it happen."
"We are now at a tipping point," he said. "We can continue to stand on the shoulders of those that have gone before us and enjoy their dream; but we must also honor that dream with a vision of our own."
Col. Eric Conrad, Deputy Commander of the Corps' South Atlantic Division, also emphasized the need for infrastructure improvements.
"We must seek out new technologies and ignite the spark of ingenuity that made a futuristic dam of the 1950's a reality still in use today," Conrad said.
Carol Burdette, a lifetime resident of the Hartwell Lake area with 25 years in public service, served as the Mistress of Ceremonies and spoke about her childhood memories of the lake.
"My first real recollection of the lake was when I was about six, and my family got a boat," she said. "For the next five or six years, I spent part of almost every weekend fishing and getting sunburned on Lake Hartwell."
"…You see, I lost my mother when I was 14, and the time we spent on Lake Hartwell was some of my best memories of her," Burdette said.
Other guest speakers included representatives from the Lake Hartwell Marketing Alliance, the Lake Hartwell Association, the Southeastern Power Administration, and the Southeastern Federal Power Customers Group.
As these individuals spoke passionately about their connections to the Hartwell Project, one theme remained constant--working together for a promising future. George Bramlette, Hartwell Operations Project Manager, summed it up best:
"We place this crown jewel that we know as Hartwell Dam and Lake in the hands of the future managers, team members, and most importantly the project users, to further define its proud legacy in our nation's history," Bramlette said. "The footprint has been made, the mark already impressive, and moving forward and forever changing, the best is absolutely yet to come."