In this issue:
We’re trying something new with TVA River Neighbors. This is the first issue that we’re distributing in electronic format only. Eliminating paper copies will help us conserve resources and ensure that you receive up-to-date information about TVA-managed reservoirs and TVA programs to enhance recreational opportunities, water quality, and other benefits. Before you leave the Neighbors page, click on the comment form and let us know what you think about this issue and what topics you’d like to see in future issues.
On May 19, the TVA Board approved it. By June 1, it was up and running. TVA’s new reservoir operating policy, the result of a comprehensive two-year Reservoir Operations Study to determine if changes would result in greater public benefits, shifted the focus from reaching specific summer reservoir elevations to a flow-based approach of efficiently moving water through the river system. The new policy was shaped with extensive public input from citizens all across the Valley, as well as representatives from state and federal agencies.
TVA’s manager of River Scheduling, Morgan Goranflo, shares some thoughts on implementing the new policy:
“It’s been an adjustment, with river flows driving things instead of focusing on targeted elevations on the tributary reservoirs. But overall things have gone smoothly, with no major surprises.
“The abundant rainfall really helped the water quality situation below many tributary dams, as well as main-river projects. As a result of the Reservoir Operations Study, we are undertaking a three-year, $17 million capital improvement program to enhance water quality. Since it will take a while for all the new aeration equipment to be installed, it was extremely helpful to be able to start with a good flow year.
“With very few exceptions, we’ve also been able to meet the targeted recreational releases as specified under the new policy. We’ve increased the number of projects at which we schedule recreational releases, adding Norris and Ocoee No. 1 and providing more dependable releases at Apalachia and Wilbur.
“Naturally, lots of people are happy about the fact that, for the first time, drawdown of the tributary reservoirs will be restricted until Labor Day. Most of the reservoirs are seeing higher levels at this time of year than they have in the past — in some cases, one to four feet higher than would have been the case under our previous operating policy.
“Still, it’s important to note that these elevations are highly dependent upon the amount of flows we have to work with; there are no guarantees that, come this time next year, pools will be where they are now. It’s my hope that the public has reasonable expectations of the levels that can be maintained from year to year — and will realize that in most years there will be some drawdown on these tributary pools between June 1 and Labor Day. Restricting the amount of drawdown is not the same as eliminating drawdown.”
Learn more about TVA’s Reservoir Operations Study here.
The closer you get to a dam, the more dangerous it becomes. Upstream, swirling water and strong underwater currents can create dangerous conditions near the powerhouse intake and water release gates. Below dams, sudden discharges from automatically operated turbines, locks, and gates can occur at any time, creating turbulence and rapidly rising water levels.
For your safety, never venture too close to a dam. Keep out of restricted zones marked by buoys, booms, cables, or signs, and move to a safe area immediately when sirens sound and/or strobe lights flash at dams that are equipped with these devices.
See for yourself: Watch a short video of what can happen if you boat or fish too close to a dam.
What a difference a month makes — especially if it’s a wet month. Going into Memorial Day weekend, recalls TVA River Forecasting Manager Randy Kerr, “pool levels on the tributary reservoirs were not as high as we would have liked.” A very wet June helped things considerably.
“We had plenty of water for hydro generation without impacting summer recreation levels,” he says. “At times, hydro generation was significantly above normal, and yet we were able to keep nine out of 10 tributary projects at or near flood guide levels through the end of July.” The one exception was Hiwassee, which has received significantly less rainfall than other parts of the Valley.
According to Kerr, it was a somewhat unusual scenario: “We had quite a few reservoirs that filled early — they were already at their flood guides before Memorial Day weekend — and then it kept raining. We found ourselves in the position of releasing a lot of water from these projects while releasing only minimum flows from other reservoirs that we were still trying to fill.”
“Overall,” says Kerr, “we were very fortunate to have enough rain to allow us to release a significant amount of water down the Tennessee River, but not so much rain that it caused any major flooding issues. You’ve heard the expression ‘too much of a good thing’? In terms of rainfall and runoff in the Tennessee Valley, the summer of 2004 might well be described as ‘just enough of a good thing.’”
New information regarding the operation of TVA-managed reservoirs is now available online. See the redesigned Reservoir Information section of TVA’s Web site for an explanation of system-wide flow requirements, individual reservoir operating guides, current reservoir elevations, current and predicted dam releases, observed rainfall and runoff, and more.
Hydro proves its worth, yet again. As the thermometer climbed into the low 90s, electricity usage began to increase all across the Valley. At 6 p.m. EDT on July 13, TVA reached a new all-time record power demand of 29,966 megawatts.
That demand was met, in part, with clean, reliable, and cost-effective hydropower generation. Because it’s available almost instantaneously, hydro is a great response to peak power situations. When the record was reached, 105 out of 109 hydro units were generating, providing 3,446 megawatts of electricity. Supplemented by generation from Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage and other hydro projects located in the TVA service area, total hydro generation during the peak hour was 5,676 megawatts.
Without this hydro capacity, TVA would have had to turn to more expensive alternatives, such as utilizing more costly generating methods or purchasing power from neighboring utilities.
Fluctuations in water levels to control mosquitoes will continue through mid-September this year on Chickamauga, Guntersville, Wheeler, and Pickwick Reservoirs. The fluctuations are being extended because the unrestricted drawdown will not occur until after Labor Day weekend under TVA’s new operating policy. These fluctuations, which reduce the need for chemical control, are designed to strand mosquito eggs and larvae on the shore where they dry out and die before the water rises again.
Looking for someplace new to visit with your family before the weather turns cold? You’ll find plenty to do at TVA’s Foster Falls Small Wild Area. TVA recently completed a wheelchair-accessible walkway that leads to a spectacular view of Foster Falls, a 60-foot vertical waterfall. Another trail will take you to the waterfall overlook.
Foster Falls has something for everyone, from hikers and rock climbers to bird watchers and other wildlife observers. The gorge area includes a remnant virgin forest and an exposed sandstone cliff, features that make it an excellent location to learn something about the vegetation and geology of East Tennessee.
Foster Falls Campground is open through November 1. It has 28 campsites, including one handicap-enabled site and handicap-enabled restrooms with heated showers and toilets. The day-use area is open year-round, with picnic tables, grills, and a group pavilion available by reservation.
Foster Falls is located about 40 minutes west of Chattanooga, Tennessee. From Tracy City, go five miles east on Highway 150/US 41. Look for the Foster Falls entrance on your left between mile markers 8 and 9.
For information about other TVA natural areas and TVA activities related to wildlife habitat protection, send an e-mail specifying your particular area of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thirty-six marinas across the Tennessee Valley are currently flying Clean Marina flags in recognition of their actions to reduce boating-related pollution. The flags signify that the marinas have voluntarily implemented environmentally responsible practices and met all federal, state, and local regulations related to marina management. TVA set up the certification program to recognize marinas that go the extra mile to protect the waters of the Tennessee Valley. These marinas have been certified so far this year:
Ditto Landing on Wheeler Reservoir and Gold Point Yacht Harbor on Chickamauga Reservoir were recertified this year and will continue to fly the Clean Marina flag in recognition of their efforts to clean up the waterway. Marinas must be recertified every two years to maintain certification. For a complete list of Clean Marinas throughout the Valley, visit here.
The North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) is offering its premiere magazine, LakeLine, at an introductory subscription rate of $25 per year. Published quarterly, the magazine contains timely articles and other information about important lake management issues. For more information or to view or order recent issues, go here.
Total water withdrawals in the Tennessee River watershed are projected to increase about 15 percent from 2000 to 2030 — to almost 14 billion gallons a day from about 12.2 billion gallons a day — according to a recently issued report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Although small in real terms, consumptive use (the difference between the amount of water withdrawn from the river system and the amount returned) is expected to increase about 51 percent — from about 650 million gallons a day to 980 million gallons a day.
“The good news is that we return a greater percentage of water to the Tennessee River than any other USGS water-resource region,” says Gene Gibson, manager of Water Supply Projects at TVA. “About 95 percent of water currently withdrawn within the Tennessee Valley is put back into the river for additional downstream uses.”
TVA collaborated in producing the USGS report, which contains information on trends in water use from 1965 to 2000, current withdrawals, and water use projections to the year 2030.
Having good data on water availability and water use gives the Tennessee Valley an edge over other parts of the country, says Gibson. “It will help us anticipate where future problems may occur and where growth could be limited due to inadequate water supply. It also will go a long way in helping find ways to avoid conflicts such as the recent water wars among Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.”
View a copy of the USGS report, read how TVA manages water supply in the Tennessee River system, and get other water-supply news from TVA’s Water Supply Web site.
A new report on the benefits provided through TVA’s integrated operation of the Tennessee River system in 2003 is available online. According to the report:
The report also provides information on recreation benefits, reservoir health, special operations, and land-use and watershed protection. View the River System Performance Report (PDF file, 656 kb).
TVA’s newly released 2002-2003 Environmental Report offers a look at the agency’s environmental performance for the two-year period. It covers TVA’s successes and challenges in improving air and water quality, providing renewable energy sources, and protecting shoreline and wildlife resources.
Landscapers and gardeners across the Tennessee Valley can select the right native plants and trees for their property with the help of TVA’s new online Native Plant Selector. More than 140 plant photos and descriptions are featured on the site. Details such as height, light requirements, moisture conditions, and bloom time for each plant are available. Users also can access information that will help them assess their property, design a landscape, or take care of native plants.