A newly released video highlights how water is managed in the Cumberland River Basin in support of flood risk management, commercial navigation, hydropower production, water supply, environmental stewardship, and recreational opportunities.
The Nashville Engineer District operates 10 dams in the Cumberland River Basin and performs a balancing act of holding and releasing water in support of the Congressionally authorized purposes of each project.
“My team receives phone calls every day from people throughout the region asking why we operate the way we do and what information are we taking into account when adjusting water levels and releases from our reservoirs,” said Anthony Rodino, Nashville District’s Water Management Section chief. “This eight-minute video provides a basic understanding of how the Nashville District manages water within the Cumberland River Basin and why these projects are so important to the region.”
The Nashville District is responsible for managing water and is the caretaker for public lands in the Cumberland River and its tributaries in Kentucky and Tennessee. Its workforce operates Martins Fork, Laurel River, Wolf Creek and Barkley Dams in Kentucky, and Dale Hollow, Center Hill, Cordell Hull, Old Hickory, J. Percy Priest, and Cheatham Dams in Tennessee.
Nashville District’s 10 reservoirs can hold more than 14,000,000-acre feet of water (nearly 4.6 trillion gallons), which is enough water to fill more than six million Olympic size swimming pools, 201,970 oil tankers or 193,260,000 double-decker buses.
During the wettest February on record in 2019, the operation of these dams prevented an estimated $1.72 billion in would-be flood damage to the region.
The ability to hold back water where possible during this period reduced impacts in Nashville by as much as 16 feet, preventing $1.5 billion of damage that would have resulted from higher water. The water level on the Cumberland River in Music City reached 40.93 feet with projects operating but would have reached an estimated 57.2 feet if the storage projects upstream were not in existence. It would have exceeded the May 2010 event by nearly five feet and exceeded the flood of record in 1927 by nearly a foot.
Lt. Col. Sonny B. Avichal, Nashville District commander, said the high-water event in February 2019 is a great example of how the Corps of Engineers manages water levels and dam releases in the Cumberland River Basin to reduce the risk of flooding.
“This video is intended to help people understand the various capabilities and differences of the dams in operation, how the location of rainfall factors into it, and how the Corps balances competing purposes while operating the system of dams,” Avichal said.