Appalachian Power has announced that thanks to work being done ahead of schedule, it will reopen the Visitor’s Center at Smith Mountain Dam on Tuesday, July 30, rather than August 1 as it had earlier projected. During the summer, the center is open Tuesday-Sunday weekly. The Smith Mountain Project Joseph H. Vipperman Visitors Center was temporarily closed to the public to safely complete maintenance work at the site. The popular destination for local residents and tourists is located above the Smith Mountain Dam on the Bedford County side of the Smith Mountain gap. The company had expected the closure, which includes the scenic walkway overlooking the dam, to continue until Aug. 1. A public picnic area just below the dam on Leesville Lake remained open during this time. Smith Mountain Project is a 636-megawatt pumped storage hydroelectric facility on the Roanoke River that utilizes an upper reservoir (Smith Mountain Lake) and a lower reservoir (Leesville Lake). Combined, the project includes about 600 miles of shoreline. Water stored in Smith Mountain Lake passes through turbine-generators in the dam powerhouse to produce electricity and is discharged into Leesville Lake. From there some water is released through the Leesville Dam or pumped back into Smith Mountain. The 50-year old project was built and is operated by Appalachian Power and is a key tourism and economic driver for southwest Virginia.