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All the signs pointed to a flood event, as one forecaster put it, of “biblical proportions.” The National Weather Service, precipitation forecast services under contract to TVA, and TVA’s own meteorologists all were making the same prediction: Hurricane Ivan would stall out over the eastern part of the Valley. The forecast called for 8 to 12 inches of rain at the very least, with some locations getting close to a devastating 30 inches.
With that sobering news, TVA began dealing with the situation well in advance of when the first hurricane-produced raindrops fell. Randy Kerr, TVA’s River Forecasting Manager, explains: “We ran multiple computer simulations to determine Ivan’s potential impacts on the system and to help us formulate responses based on different scenarios. Some pool levels were lowered through increased generation and spilling to create additional storage space. At Douglas, where we already were discharging as much water as possible through the turbines to recover flood storage space after Hurricane Francis, we began spill operations—gradually increasing releases to a high of 40,000 cubic feet of water per second (18 million gallons per minute).”
As the storm made its way into the Valley, forecasters revised their original predictions slightly. “But even then,” says Kerr, “we were still hearing that we’d likely get 10 to 12 inches of rain—with a minimum of seven to nine. The fact is, you don’t really know what you’re going to have to deal with until the rain hits the ground. Fortunately for all concerned, we caught a break. As it turned out, the area above Chattanooga received slightly over four inches of rainfall, with some locations reporting over 10 inches.”
But just because Ivan didn’t stall out over the Valley and generate as much rain as originally predicted doesn’t mean that the situation wasn’t serious. “On the contrary,” says Kerr, “we got a significant amount of rainfall during a time when we were still struggling to move water from the previous hurricane through the system. Plus, reservoir elevations were already above historic average levels as a result of recent changes in our operating policy.
Chattanooga was just a few feet below flood stage when the rain moved in and crested at only one foot below flood stage. Chickamauga, Watts Bar, Fort Loudoun, and Guntersville locks had to be closed due to the high flows, and—a week later—we were still spilling water at several tributary and most main-river projects. By the time Ivan moved out, the reservoir system had helped to avert almost $10 million in flood damages.
“Things turned out better than expected, but—make no mistake—we were close to a very serious situation” says Kerr. “If the precipitation they were predicting had actually materialized, we would have experienced major flooding despite the precautions made in advance of Ivan. Let’s just say we’re all feeling very relieved that things turned out the way they did.”
TVA is updating its Watts Bar Reservoir Land Plan. Input from the public, resource data, and computer analysis will be used to allocate about 14,000 acres of TVA-managed lands for specific uses—for example, forest and wildlife management, hiking and biking trails, industrial use, and developed recreation such as campgrounds, commercial boat docks, and public use areas.
TVA held a public open house on September 28 in Harriman, Tennessee, to hear comments on the scope of the plan. About 150 people attended the meeting, and others have submitted comments on the plan by phone, letter, and e-mail.
Act now! If you haven’t provided input yet, a comment form is available on the Watts Bar Reservoir Land Plan Web page — but only through October 8. Stakeholders will have more opportunities to provide comments when the draft plan is issued next spring.
Barkley, Kentucky, Reelfoot, and Douglas reservoirs stand out in terms of crappie production. Fort Loudoun, Wheeler, and Wilson reservoirs are good bets for black bass. Anglers in search of smallmouth might want to try Fontana, South Holston, or Watauga. Wilson and Old Hickory have an abundance of largemouth.
Those are just a few of Kurt Lakin’s observations based on the latest Sport Fish Index (SFI) scores for Valley reservoirs. TVA and state fishery resource agencies created the index to help anglers decide where they have the best chance of catching their favorite types of fish, according to Lakin, a TVA fisheries biologist. “We’ve worked hard to ensure that SFI scores accurately reflect the quality of the fishery for different species in reservoirs across the region.”
SFI scores are based on data about fish abundance and fishery quality collected by TVA and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Fish abundance is determined based on population studies and species capture rates from angler catch surveys, and—for black bass—tournament results. Fishery quality is assessed based on the average condition of individual fish, the structure of the overall population, and fishing pressure on different species.
This information is weighted and used in assigning a numerical score to each reservoir for individual sport fish species. SFI scores range from a high of 60 (excellent) to a low of 20 (very poor). View the latest SFI scores.
Sedimentation from past mining activities and bacterial contamination from inadequate waste treatment were two long-standing problems affecting water quality in the Guest River, a tributary of the Clinch River in southwest Virginia.
TVA began working with local communities in 1995 to organize the Guest River Group—a partnership that has since grown to include some 20 organizations. “The group developed a watershed improvement plan, which identified projects with the best chance of making a real difference in water quality,” says TVA Watershed Team member Shannon O’Quinn. “The group has pulled in more than $1.8 million for restoration work. We’ve reclaimed about 10 abandoned mine sites. We’ve pumped out several hundred septic tanks and repaired 90 failing septic systems, including eliminating many direct waste discharges from homes into streams. And we’ve reduced erosion along six miles of streambank by planting vegetation, sloping and stabilizing banks, and implementing bioengineering methods such as cedar-tree revetments.”
These efforts paid off this year when the commonwealth of Virginia revised its assessment of conditions on the Guest River from “non-support” to “partial support” of classified uses. The upgrade means the waters are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable most of the time—although there still may be intermittent problems. According to O’Quinn, “this change in the state assessment is an encouraging sign of where things are headed.”
Late autumn and winter are good times to get some work done if you own shoreline property. Before the water starts coming up again next spring, here are some projects to consider:
If you own a boat that you will not be using during the colder months, check with your local marina or boat dealer regarding proper winter maintenance. Clean your boat away from the water with a phosphate-free, biodegradable detergent or natural cleanser like vinegar, borax, or baking soda.
Autumn in the Tennessee Valley: temperatures are delightfully cooler, and fall color is everywhere. It’s a great time of year to get out of the car and onto a trail. And, with close to two dozen hiking, walking, and bike trails covering a total of about 40 miles, TVA-managed public lands are easy to access and offer a wide variety of outdoor experiences.
Most trails are relatively short (from a half-mile to around three miles in length) and several are paved—providing smooth going for those with limited mobility, including senior citizens, persons in wheelchairs, or families with children in strollers. TVA trails are generally less crowded than trails in national parks and forests, and leashed dogs are welcome.
TVA has an ongoing program to maintain and enhance trails. Find out about the recently completed Reservation Road Trail on TVA’s Muscle Shoals reservation and improvements to the Songbird Trail on the Norris reservation.
For more information about specific trails, or for answers to questions regarding hiking on TVA-managed public lands, contact your local TVA Watershed Team.
“When it comes to commercial navigation, we do one thing, and we do it well,” says TVA’s Manager of Navigation Ted Nelson. “We make it possible to move large volumes of goods and raw materials to support the Valley’s economy. Water transportation on the Tennessee River is uniquely suited to the economical shipping of many types of goods. For those commodities, no other means of transportation makes as much sense.”
Nelson is quick to note, however, that water transportation is just one part of an efficient “multi-modal” system—one that features a variety of different methods of transportation. For instance, perishable food needs to be shipped under refrigeration; a truck may offer shippers the best option in that case. Sometimes the final destination of a product helps to determine the most feasible shipping method: a rail car may be able to bring goods right to the door of a manufacturing plant located far from a waterway. He explains: “The whole idea is to use the right mode to ship the right goods. Barges may not be the best way to move televisions, just as airplanes aren’t a good choice for shipping coal. But for bulk materials that are not time-sensitive, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a better shipping method.”
Producers and consumers all across the Valley agree. Almost 50 million tons of products—including coal, stone, sand, gravel, corn, soybeans, oats, chemicals, iron, and steel—move up and down the Tennessee River every year. Much of that river traffic links the Tennessee Valley with locations in almost half of the U.S. and with foreign countries, as well.
“We’d never want to suggest that commercial navigation should or could take the place of other modes of transportation,” says Nelson. “There’s a need for each method, depending upon circumstances. But water transportation is a key player in the mix. Fuel costs alone account for significant shipper savings: transporting goods by barge is 25% more efficient than shipping by rail, and four times as efficient as shipping by truck. There are public safety advantages and unquestionable environmental benefits.” The fact that shippers have options when it comes to methods of transporting goods keeps those costs in line, which translates to lower prices for consumers.
“Those barges may not be flashy,” says Nelson, “but they are the backbone of a thriving commercial enterprise—one that contributes real value to the economy of the Tennessee Valley.”
It’s a noticeable—and welcome—difference. Four years ago, TVA scientists were surprised to see a significant decline in PCB concentrations found in fish tissue samples taken from Watts Bar, Tellico, Nickajack, Fort Loudoun, and Melton Hill reservoirs. They’ve kept a close eye on results from subsequent sampling efforts.
PCB concentrations in fish from these reservoirs have fluctuated in the past few years, but remain lower than they historically had been prior to the year 2000. TVA Monitoring Team member Rebecca Hallman says, “we’re curious to see if this is a true change in environmental conditions—or if results were possibly influenced by several years of below-average rainfall in the Tennessee Valley. With the recent return to a more normal or wet hydrologic cycle, it will be interesting to watch what happens.”
PCBs are a class of industrial chemicals that tend to last for many years. They do not break down easily on their own, and they are difficult to destroy. Manufacture of PCBs stopped in the United States in 1977 because of evidence that PCBs build up in the environment and cause harmful effects.
TVA coordinates fish tissue monitoring efforts with state agencies, which are responsible for issuing fish consumption advisories. Hallman says several agencies—including TVA, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency—are collaborating on a special fish tissue study to be conducted this fall and winter. “By expanding the number of species collected and sampling locations, we’ll get a better picture of what is happening in terms of fish tissue PCB concentrations in these reservoirs.”
In addition to conducting fish tissue studies, TVA collects information about the ecological condition of 31 reservoirs, including dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels, fish populations, bottom life, and sediment quality. Learn more about TVA’s monitoring program and see the latest results for your reservoir.
TVA has installed a new safety warning system at Chickamauga Dam to help improve public safety during water releases from the dam.
“Warning horns and strobe lights will be activated automatically before TVA begins generating power and releasing water from the dam as a safety warning to the public,” said TVA Senior Vice President of River Operations Janet Herrin. “When the horns and strobe lights are activated, boaters and the public should quickly move to safe areas.” Electronic message boards on both sides of the dam also will display information that water will be spilled soon.
Warning systems also are in place at Great Falls, Kentucky, Norris, and Tims Ford Dams. Warning systems at Fort Loudoun and Watts Bar will be operational soon, and systems are scheduled for installation next year at Wheeler and the Apalachia Powerhouse.
Barton Springs Campground on Normandy Reservoir will close for the season on Monday, October 11. All other TVA-operated campgrounds will close on Monday, November 1.
Check TVA’s recreation Web site next spring for 2005 opening dates. You’ll also find information about things to do, driving directions, and phone numbers to call for additional information about each campground.
Most of the day-use areas and boat ramps operated by TVA are open year-round. To learn more, please contact your local TVA Watershed Team.
Paris Landing State Park Marina on Kentucky Reservoir, Pickwick Landing State Park Marina on Pickwick Reservoir, and Cedar Hill Boat Dock on Cherokee Reservoir are the latest marinas to be certified as part of TVA’s Clean Marina Initiative. TVA set up the certification program to recognize marinas that go the extra mile to protect Tennessee Valley waters.
Laurel Marina and Yacht Club on South Holston Reservoir and four marinas on Norris Reservoir – Norris Dam Marina, Shanghai Resort, Andersonville Marina, and Stardust Marinas – were recently recertified.
Thirty-nine marinas across the Tennessee Valley are currently flying Clean Marina flags in recognition of their actions to reduce boating-related pollution. View a complete list here.
Readers of River Neighbors already know that TVA’s public Web site is full of information about the agency’s management of the Tennessee River system. But there are many other things you can learn about TVA by cruising around www.tva.com. You’ll find answers to these questions and many more: