The dams and reservoirs of the Tennessee Valley Authority helped avert $710 million of flood damage in Chattanooga last month after an average of 10 inches of rain fell across the drainage area that flows through Chattanooga.
TVA said today it estimates its 49 dams helped store enough water across its 7-state region to avoid $800 million of damage to low-lying areas in the Tennessee Valley. January’s rain fall was more than twice the typical level. TVA spokesman Travis Brickey said last month was the third wettest January in TVA’s 80-year history.
Most of the advantage was realized in Chattanooga. The rain that falls on more than 20,000 square miles of land in East Tennessee, western North Carolina and Virginia and Northern Georgia flows into the Tennessee River through Chattanooga.
TVA is in the third week of spilling water through its nine mainstream dams as it tries to recover from January’s above-average rainfall, which raised the lake levels on TVA reservoirs far above their normal winter pool.
TVA is operating all 29 of its hydroelectric dams at full power with the available water, but the utility also is having to spill 698,000 gallons per second through the Chickamauga Dam to help draw down the rain-swollen lakes and rivers above Chattanooga.
“We try to avid spilling water because it’s low-cost power generation, but when we have a lot of water our No. 1 priority becomes flood drainage risks,” said John McCormick, senior vice president of river operations and renewables. “We hold water behind the dams in order to minimize the downstream flood impacts. After the high water crested in the Tennessee River and its tributary rivers, we started gradually releasing water out of the tributary reservoirs to recover storage space and to prepare for the next rain event.”
Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...