China's Three Gorges Dam reaches maximum capacity
Oct 29, 2010 - The Associated Press
The water level at China's Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower plant, reached its maximum capacity Tuesday, meaning that the decades-old project is generating its maximum amount of power for the first time.
The reservoir's water level hit its maximum height of 175 meters (574 feet) at 9 a.m., according to its operator, the China Three Gorges Project Corp. - marking the symbolic culmination the project.
The milestone - reached for the first time since it began operations - would "enable the project to fulfill its functions of flood control, power generation, navigation and water diversion to the full," company chairman Cao Guangjing was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.
China has made two earlier attempts to raise the water levels, with the previous record of 172.8 meters (567 feet) set in 2008. The project, built along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, China's longest, began storing water in 2003.
For years, China had promoted the mammoth $23 billion, 410-mile-long (660-kilometer-long) reservoir as the best way to end centuries of floods along the basin of the Yangtze and to provide energy to fuel the country's economic boom.
In the process, the government often ignored concerns about the enormous environmental impact of the dam, which resulted in the displacement of more than 1.4 million people. Geologists have also warned about the heightened risk of landslides, earthquakes and prolonged damage to the river's ecology as the water levels were raised.