Tragic Accidents on the Ocoee River
August 26, 2013
Providing for recreational opportunities on TVA-managed lands and waters is part of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s environmental stewardship responsibilities and mission, and we encourage this use of our many rivers and lakes. Over the weekend, two separate and tragic accidents occurred on the Ocoee River in Southeast Tennessee that resulted in the deaths of two rafters. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends.
TVA uses the water of the Ocoee River to generate electricity at three hydroelectric stations in Tennessee - Ocoee Dams Nos. 1, 2 and 3. TVA carefully manages the flow of water through these facilities for multiple objectives - to maintain water quality, water supply, hydroelectric power and current for whitewater enthusiasts on the river.
Initial media reports over the weekend misreported the river flow rate at the time of the accident on Saturday, Aug. 24, as exceeding the 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) level for suspending commercial whitewater operation on the middle section of the Ocoee. This section is between Ocoee Dam No. 2 and the Ocoee No. 2 powerhouse, which is 5 miles downstream. Some water is diverted at Dam No. 2 to bypass the river and travel down a manmade channel or flume to the No. 2 powerhouse.
- Under agreement, TVA notifies the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation when the flow rate exceeds 3,000 cubic feet per second, and TDEC suspends rafting.
- On Saturday, around the time of the incident, the flow rate on the middle section of the Ocoee was approximately 2,300-2,600 cubic feet per second.
- On Sunday, around the time of the second incident, the flow rate on the middle section of the Ocoee was approximately 2,200 – 2,500 cubic feet per second.
- TVA uses real-time monitoring equipment that measures water elevations and calculates flow rates going over the top of the Ocoee No. 2 Dam that supplies water for rafting.
- Information on TVA’s website about Ocoee Dam No. 2 is a combination of river flows at the Ocoee No. 2 dam and the volume of water diverted by the Ocoee Flume, which bypasses the middle section of the river where recreational rafting is held.
- TVA is reviewing the river condition data it recorded in real time over the weekend and will provide that information to assist any agencies investigating the tragic incidents. TVA is not conducting an investigation, as water releases and notifications were within TVA’s established policies.
“Water on the Ocoee River is carefully controlled to meet the benefits of recreation, water quality, water supply and power generation,” said John McCormick, senior vice president River Operations and Renewables. “We want everyone to enjoy the excellent recreational opportunities all across the Tennessee Valley and rafting on the nationally recognized Ocoee River can be a thrilling adventure. However this is a difficult reminder that this and other water activities carry some risk.
NOTE: A broadcast quality video interview is available for download here. (Right click to download)
Tom Barnett, manager, TVA River Forecast Center in Knoxville, Tenn.
Travis Brickey, 865-632-6263
TVA Public Relations, Knoxville, 865-632-6000