Questions About TVA And Controlling Water Levels - And Response (2)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

So in 2003 Chattanooga and Marion County and more people below Chickamauga Dam suffered a 100 year flood because TVA had not prepared for the amount of rain that fell.  Since then up until 2018 they have done a great job with controlling the flooding problems.

On Feb. 14 they started dumping water at Chickamauga Dam and raising the river, bringing the river level up.  Feb 15 it's dumping so much it is already 10 feet above flood stage and the weather had not even arrived. 

Both Watts Bar and Chickamauga Lake are below winter levels and should be able to hold some of the overflow. 

So why did TVA wait one day before they started preparing for the weather knowing a week ago this was coming instead of dumping the amount of water damaging property along the Tennessee River?

I understand we have received record amounts of rain but it should also be producing record amount of energy for TVA.  Are they taking advantage of making more income at our expense or just someone new on the job who isn't prepared to handle the task of controlling the lakes and rivers?

Alex Claiborne

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Mr. Claiborne, 

I suggest you contact River Management with TVA in Knoxville and ask their take on this rainy weather. The fact is today Chickamauga Dam is spilling 123,000 cubic feet per second. At 100,000 CFS commercial traffic ceases by rules of safe navigation as administered by the Coast Guard. 100,000 cfs riverflow makes approaching the locks from downstream feel like going through rapids with 3 foot chop a half mile downstream and matching streamflow to add to the attraction. Lockmaster then says locks are closed dues to high water. Normal rain resulting flow is around 45 to 60 thousand cfs. 

The main point of TVA river control is to safeguard Chattanooga from flooding, as their river control management has said, it is their number one priority. The drag of it is the river is at times its own manager, no matter how humans think they can oversee it. Go downriver of Chattanooga to Massengale Point and you will see what folks who live there do, the river drops elevation in a few feet at that narrow point in the river gorge. Just downriver of Massengale Point is the deepest pool in the river I know of, it shows 120’ water depth and rocks the size of houses. There is a gauge there, it has no electronic way to transmit knowledge to Knoxville. It is the old fashioned stick in the water with increments in tenths of feet and feet. My understanding  is the river can drain only so fast just downstream of Chattanooga so the river management task is now to let flooding not be really bad, just moderate to bad. Find the can buoy in the gorge that is brown, it’s not green because in flow like this it gets dragged under like clockwork, every minute or two. There may be a sunken tree or two weighing its pennant line down but I’m not going to go look.

Yes, the reservoir above Chattanooga is lower than winter pool, that is a good thing, because the Channel 3 weatherman says we are getting 5.5 to 7 inches of rain next week. So the 646 elevation just below the dam will go a good bit higher before this is over. As will the lake level.  If your property is shorefront enjoy the view because that is all you can do. The rain event we got last night came northwest to southeast, normal that I understand is southwest to northeast and west to east. Point being the Tennessee River and tributaries fill up collectively faster in some situations than others.

Right now where I am, Black Creek and the unnamed tributary I live on, can flow due to a heavy fog because the ground is so saturated. So my suggestion is pray, relief there is longer lasting and more fulfilling than depending of the wits and wisdom of someone tasked with staving off Mother Nature. 

We’ve been blessed that the flood of 1927 has not happened again. River managers with TVA would agree. For over 10 months that year, through the Mississippi Delta, not the Mississippi River Delta, the River was five miles wide carrying every piece of human existence in its flow. Most mid continent places saw rainfall every day during that 10 months. We are approaching that biblical event in bits and pieces now. 

Prentice Hicks

* * *

Never holster any empty gun Alex.

Rosemary Workman


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