Despite the lack of hydropower, Normandy Dam on the Duck River has been a boon to Middle Tennessee, bringing economic development and recreation along with many other benefits.
Normandy Dam, located on the Duck River in central Tennessee, is TVA’s largest non-power tributary storage project. It was developed as the first of two proposed projects to aid in the economic advancement of the upper Duck region. (The second project, Columbia Dam, was never completed.) Primary operating objectives for Normandy include flood control, water supply, recreation and economic development. Normandy also provides water for a fish hatchery immediately downstream.
TVA created its new Office of Tributary Area Development in the spring of 1961 to help with the development of economic opportunities in sub regions of the Tennessee Valley. These areas included tributary watershed regions across the Valley including the Elk River, Beech River, Bear Creek and Duck River.
By 1964 the people of Coffee, Bedford, Marshall and Maury counties in Tennessee organized the Upper Duck River Development Association (UDRDA) and requested assistance from TVA in organizing a program for tributary area development. UDRDA also lobbied U.S. Representative Joe Evins (D-Tenn) for help in the Duck River region. A year later, in response to requests from officials in UDRDA, the Tennessee Duck River Development Agency (TDRDA) was created by the Tennessee State Legislature as “public body corporate and politic” to develop and effectuate “plans and programs for comprehensive development including the control and development of the water resources,” with the legal authority necessary to carry out certain phases of a resource development program.
In order to coordinate the activities in the region, TVA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with UDRDA and TDRDA regarding resource development in the area. Studies were undertaken to determine the development potential of the main stem of the upper Duck River.
Rep. Evins, who was chairman of the powerful House subcommittee on public works and a friend to local proponents of the project, secured the first funding for a two-dam project on the Duck River in 1969. TVA developed a multiple-purpose plan for the Duck River project, which would utilize more fully the water resources potential of the Upper Duck River Basin. The plan consisted of the Normandy and Columbia dams and reservoir units. The project would benefit from flood control, water supply, water quality control, recreation, fish and wildlife, as well as improved highway travel and development of lands adjoining the reservoirs for purposes of public benefit. It would also provide more productive employment of the local labor force in direct project employment and in project-induced, higher-wage jobs associated with industrial and related trades and services employment.
Construction began on Normandy in June 1972 and the gates closed in January 1976. However, just a few short years after the Endangered Species Act became law, environmentalists noted that the Duck River watershed is one of the most biologically diverse river systems in the nation. Over 500 species of fish, insects and other forms of aquatic life inhabit the ecosystem. While work progressed on Columbia Dam, momentum shifted on the project by 1977 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added a number of freshwater mussels to its list of endangered species, including two in the Duck River: the birdwing pearly mussel and the Cumberland monkeyface pearly mussel. Efforts to transplant the inch-long creatures to other streams were unsuccessful, and Columbia Dam was never completed. It was dismantled in 1983.
The impoundment of the Duck River by TVA at Normandy created a unique partnership. The State of Tennessee and TVA developed an agreement that would provide approximately 200 acres just south of the Normandy Dam to the State for the construction and management of a warm water fish hatchery. In addition, two intakes—at different depths—were provided during the construction of the dam that would serve as the method for supplying raw water to the hatchery.
The Normandy Hatchery was primarily designed for warm water species production such as black bass, bluegill, crappie, etc. However, the facility is designed to allow the flexibility to produce the cool water species, such as trout, that require a steady flow of water. The hatchery was completed in April 1996.