ASHLAND CITY, Tenn. (June 18, 2012) – Flood waters in May 2010 submerged the lock operations center and resource manager’s office at Cheatham Dam, forcing personnel to flee. When the water receded, buildings were uninhabitable, and the staff moved into trailers. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District continued the recovery today, breaking ground on the construction of new facilities.
Lt. Col. James A. DeLapp, Nashville District commander, joined Cheatham County Mayor David McCullough, former Cheatham County Mayor Bill Orange, and Larry Nash, Cheatham Lake resource manager, as keynote speakers at the groundbreaking.
Together they recounted the deluge of rain that resulted in a flood of record, the tremendous impact of first responders, the valued partnership between the community and the Corps, and the importance of rebuilding to support navigation operations and natural resource management at Cheatham Dam.
With about 50 people in attendance, Nash pointed to the top of the tent where a water mark had been placed to indicate the elevation of 404.15 feet, where flood waters reached and submerged the two buildings.
“In my 20 years at Cheatham Lake, I’ve seen the water rise up four times out of its banks,” Nash said. “Three times it got to the front porch of the office and stopped. The fourth time was the charm. And it ended up seven and a half feet deep (in the office spaces).”
As much as 17 inches of rain fell in areas of the Cumberland River Basin May 1-2, 2010 that resulted in an unprecedented flash flood on the main stem Cumberland River. The actual rainfall amounts doubled the previous two-day rainfall record set in 1979. Cheatham Lock and Dam experienced the most impact with a maximum historical discharge of 240,000 cubic feet per second along with a maximum historical headwater elevation.
The water rose quickly May 2. Although employees attempted to salvage equipment from the buildings in the face of rising waters, ultimately nine employees had to be evacuated to safety by boat. One employee even lost a personal vehicle.
Work crews responded for days following the flood to restore operations, dewater the lock master’s office, pull damaged electrical wiring, and rebuild critical hydraulic pumps used to open and close the lock. The resource manager’s office had to be demolished and removed.
“The flood really affected us all,” McCullough stressed. In Cheatham County, 550 homes and 76 businesses were damaged or destroyed. Vital utilities also received major damage. It cost approximately $900,000 to restore flooded roads, about $5 million to repair flooded schools, $1 million to remove debris, and $2 million for various other repairs, he said.
McCullough said the county is blessed not to have had any fatalities as a result of the flood. He praised volunteerism, and spoke of Cheatham County Long Term Recovery volunteers who rebuilt 31 homes.
Orange, who served as Cheatham County mayor during the May 2010 flood, said communities were swept away and people were literally rescued from their rooftops.
“We had historical channels that had not carried water in hundreds of years reopen, taking with them homes and almost schools, and disrupting our communities” Orange said. “Thousands of jobs were in jeopardy. Our roads were impassable. Bridges were completely gone… bewilderment everywhere.”
Orange said the county’s engineers and planners had validated a flood would come, “but no one, not anyone, could ever have foreseen the devastation that would occur to people who live in this area.”
The mayor added that from devastation come almost miraculous acts of compassion and concern. During the flood, hundreds of first responders poured into the county and they performed hundreds of tireless rescues. Homes were opened up to the homeless. Truckloads of donations poured in to feed and clothe them.
“This (Cheatham project) staff was there with us through that walk,” Orange said to DeLapp. “Mr. Nash kept me apprised of almost hourly information that did assist us greatly in being able to move materials to higher ground. Again, I’m thankful for the Corps.”
DeLapp said his team at the Cheatham project has a great partnership and working relationship with Cheatham County, and he appreciates the mayors bringing to life the courageous days of the flood, and recounting the difficult recovery.
The commander spoke last at the groundbreaking ceremony and pointed to the future as both the local community and Cheatham project continue to recover from the flood’s aftermath. With a background in architecture and construction, DeLapp focused much of his attention on the building features that will enhance operations, and are scheduled for completion in 18 months.
The Nashville District Engineering and Operations Divisions collaborated and worked closely with the architect to ensure design features were included that would take into account the possibility of future flooding and would add environmental and energy features to satisfy LEED Silver standards. LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.”
The LEED rating system provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. It also provides third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health, sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
DeLapp said the new lock operations center, a 5,200 square-foot building, and resource manager’s office, a 6,175 square-foot facility, are designed to reduce energy consumption by about 30 percent. Both buildings will house office spaces above the May 2010 flood elevation.
The buildings include features for water savings and energy efficiency. Both buildings are handicap accessible.
Futron Incorporated of Woodbridge, Va., is the contractor that will construct the two new buildings. Barge, Waggoner, Sumner, and Cannon Incorporated in Nashville, Tenn., provided architectural services and designed the buildings.
At the end of the ceremony, DeLapp said, “I want to add that I’m proud of the staff here, the local community, and other organizations that responded two years ago during the flood of record here at Cheatham Dam. I’m excited to see these buildings go up and it’s my privilege to participate in the groundbreaking.”
District officials commend Corey Morgan, the technical manager, and Megan Kentner, the project manager, in the Nashville District Engineering and Construction Division, who contributed greatly during the design phase.
During the construction phase of the project, David Loyd is serving as resident engineer. Debbie Dowell is the project engineer and contracting officer’s representative. She is the primary day-today construction manager and is the main interface with Project Manager Ramune Morales in the Planning Division.
According to Johnny Wilmore, deputy chief of the Engineering and Construction Division, Dowell has several years of experience in construction management with a focus in construction contract management.
Wilmore also noted that Victor Young is the lead quality assurance representative during the construction project. He has extensive experience in construction quality management as well as contract administration.
The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. Also follow Cheatham Lake on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cheathamlake.