TVA: Water receding, but flow rates will remain high

CHAD DARNALL | Sky6

As of noon Thursday, Kentucky Lake showed a level of 365.09 feet - its deepest point this week - and Kentucky Dam had an hourly discharge of 333,270 cubic feet (2.49 million gallons) of water per second.

Officials with the Tennessee Valley Authority said its efforts in water flow control along the Tennessee River and its tributaries provided $1.6 billion worth of flood protection with late February flooding.

James Everett, manager for the TVA River Forecasting Center, spoke to media members Thursday through a conference call and said that figure came from comparing how devastating the flood could have been with what actually occurred.

"The benefit that the TVA reservoir system provided during this flood event in terms of flood protection across the entire river valley was about $1.6 billion," he said. "That is a very, very large damage reduction number."

He added about 90 percent of that would have occurred in the Chattanooga, Tennessee, area.

Everett said, while there is more precipitation in the forecast, TVA is seeing signs of water levels receding in many areas.

"We are finally getting some relief from the high water," he said, "but (we're) still aggressively moving a lot of water through the system, just because we've got very high pool levels at all of our lakes."

Those lakes include Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, the boundaries of Land Between the Lakes. Kentucky Lake and Kentucky Dam are on the Tennessee River, while Lake Barkley and Barkley Dam are on the Cumberland RIver.

The Tennessee River flows into the Ohio River east of Paducah, while the Cumberland River flows into the Ohio at Smithland in Livingston County.

As of noon Thursday, Kentucky Lake showed a level of 365.09 feet - its deepest point this week - and Kentucky Dam had an hourly discharge of 333,270 cubic feet (2.49 million gallons) of water per second. The dam's maximum discharge this week reached 376,550 cubic feet (2.82 million gallons) per second at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Lake Barkley's depth was at 365.7 feet at noon Thursday - also its deepest point this week - and Barkley Dam had an hourly discharge of 136,100 cubic feet (1.018 million gallons) per second. The dam's maximum discharge this week reached 136,800 cubic feet (1.023 million gallons) per second at 7 a.m. Thursday.

Both lakes have summer pool levels of 359 feet, which is the average depth of the lakes. Kentucky Lake is 6.09 feet above summer pool, while Barkley Lake is 6.7 feet above summer pool. Winter pool for both lakes is 354 feet.

"A lot of the lake levels are several feet above summer pool," Everett said. "So, because we stored all that water during the heavy rain events of the last week, we now have to start releasing that water.

"Some of these dams that are 8 or so feet above summer pool, the quickest we can get rid of that water physically is about a foot per day. ... So, this is a very prolonged recovery for flood storage in our tributaries."

Everett said the forecast rainfall over the weekend could affect how TVA controls the release of water from its dams next week.

"It looks like some of the heaviest (precipitation) is going to be Sunday," he said. "We're taking every opportunity we can, and have been this week and continue through the weekend to move as much water through the system with an eye to the future with more rainfall coming."

Everett said the flow rates below the dams are very high, at or above channel capacities. He strongly advised people not to boat near dams until the flow rates were closer to normal.

"For any boaters near the dams, these are extremely high flow rates that are very dangerous currents," he said.

"We do not encourage anyone to be near a dam, especially with those kinds of flow rates."

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