All nine major dams along the Tennessee River are spilling water this week as the Tennessee Valley Authority works to manage record water levels. The Tennessee River watershed typically averages 51 inches of rain a year; so far in 2013, more than 40 inches of rain has fallen in the river valley. Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman Travis Brickey says in some places, dams are spilling as much as a million gallons of water per second. Brickey says these water releases are part of an overall management plan to reduce flooding after the season's heavy rains, which are affecting the entire TVA reservoir system.
"We’re in this pattern where we’re getting a lot of rain, so we’ve got to be prepared for the next rain event," he says.
Nineteen dams are spilling water across Tennessee this week: Nine major dams and ten of 20 tributary dams. TVA has been managing for record rainfall since the last week of June.
“The decision back the last part of June into the first part of July was, ‘Let’s create some storage,’ so they took all nine dams on the Tennessee River an started releasing water; so that’s when we started really aggressively releasing water because we were anticipating that rain event.”
Brickey says those preparations helped minimize heavy flooding across most of the region, although there have been some reports of flooding in Chattanooga and Alabama. Recreation areas at Douglas and Watauga reservoirs are also temporarily closed because of high water and heavy debris. Watauga, in upper East Tennessee, reached all-time record water levels this week, at 1,967 feet above sea level.