Record Crowds View Spilling and Sluicing at Norris

When Norris Dam began the rare processes of spilling and sluicing, visitors showed up in droves to see the show. TVA retirees volunteered to help answer their questions.

MAY 15, 2017—Last month when Norris Dam began to spill for the first time since 2013, the public took notice. Then, on May 2 when lake levels started to drop, the sluice gates at the base of the dam were used in addition to the spill gates at the top—making the “water show” even more unique. It was a rare sight—and one that brought a mass of interested visitors who wanted to catch a glimpse of the man-made aquatic display.

Norris spilling

With those visitors came the need for volunteers to staff the visitor center longer each day. And when volunteers scheduled through May 8 were asked if they would extend their hours, the answer was a resounding “Yes!”

“We have awesome volunteers who work in our manned visitor centers and are extremely dedicated to TVA,” says Marka Smith, program manager for Bicentennial Volunteers Inc., a TVA retiree organization. “They are passionate about what TVA has done for them personally and what TVA has done to enhance the lives of the people in the Tennessee Valley.”

The work of these quick-acting volunteers played a role in bringing record-breaking numbers of visitors to Norris last month and through the beginning of May. Norris usually averages approximately 45 visitors per weekday and 130 visitors each day during the weekend. However, during the five-day period between April 26-30, Norris averaged 2,000 visitors per day. The grand total April visitor count was 11,621.

“During the spill, we had visitors from Canada, South Africa, Japan, Romania, Germany, and throughout the U.S.,” Smith says.

Volunteers met with the massive crowds, answering questions and telling their TVA story. “Each volunteer professionally and cordially adjusted as needed. They embraced the challenge,” says Frank Laszlo, 2016 BVI Volunteer of the Year and former plant manager at Norris. “Many of our volunteers enjoy talking about their careers in addressing our visitors’ questions. This is a valuable asset that each of our volunteers can contribute. Since each volunteer brings a different perspective of TVA’s mission, it provides a more complete picture,” he said.

On Tuesday, May 10, the spillway gates at Norris were closed, as the lake returned to normal summer pool. But the volunteers’ work isn’t over. They continue to staff Norris daily, providing knowledgeable information and making guests’ visits memorable.

The Unified Development of the Tennessee River plan stressed TVA was to provide flood control, navigation and electricity for the region. TVAs dams are tangible evidence of its primary mission: improving life in the Tennessee Valley. We’re celebrating the plan with an in-depth look at 32 of the dams it comprises.