NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 29, 2015) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District has two notable engineering projects to its credit in recent years to stop seepage through the embankments of Wolf Creek Dam in Jamestown, Ky., and Center Hill Dam in Lancaster, Tenn. In conjunction with National Dam Safety Awareness Day May 31, 2015, the district is highlighting the major effort it took to construct concrete barrier walls deep into the foundations of these dams.
In the mid 2000s the Nashville District announced that these dams had a high risk of failure and would need immediate rehabilitation to prevent seepage and reduce the risk of failure. Lake Cumberland and Center Hill Lake were lowered to reduce the pressure on the dams in preparation for the two construction projects.
Project Manager David Hendrix said between 2006 and 2014, the district remediated Wolf Creek Dam to minimize the risk of a seepage failure.
“The $594 million project included a vigorous grouting program and installation of a 3,900-foot long and 275-foot deep concrete cutoff wall in the earthen embankment section,” Hendrix said. “Wolf Creek Dam impounds Lake Cumberland, the largest Corps storage project east of the Mississippi River. Lake Cumberland has a storage capacity of more than 6,000,000 acre feet. Failure of Wolf Creek Dam would result in lives lost and more than $1 billion of flood damages downstream in Nashville.”
At Center Hill Lake, Project Manager Linda Adcock said that the district pumped 1.3 million gallons of grout into the foundation of the embankment between 2008 and 2010, followed by the installation of a concrete barrier wall 1,000-foot long and 300-feet deep between 2012 and 2015. A third phase of the project to add a berm below the secondary auxiliary dam is expected to be constructed by 2018.
“The district is working on the $364 million remediation of Center Hill Dam to minimize the risk of either a seepage failure or an overtopping failure of the dam on the Caney Fork River,” Adcock said. “Failure of Center Hill Dam could result in lives lost and flood damages downstream of more than $4 billion.”
When filled to its hydropower pool capacity (elevation 723.0), Lake Cumberland holds 3,995,000 acre feet of water with a flood control storage capacity of 2,094,000 acre feet. When filled to its hydropower pool capacity (elevation 648.0), Center Hill Lake holds 1,330,000 acre feet of water with a flood control storage capacity of 762,000 acre feet. With all reservoirs filled to hydropower pool capacity, Nashville District’s 10 reservoirs can hold more than 9,000,000 acre feet of water (nearly three trillion gallons), which is equivalent to an Olympic size swimming pool 5,600 miles deep. There is 5,000,000 acre feet of flood control storage at the six flood control reservoirs.
Dam safety has been a major goal since the Corps of Engineers began building dams in the 1840s. USACE delivers safe dam operation and performance through continuous assessment, communication and risk management by dam safety professionals at all levels throughout the organization.
USACE operates and maintains more than 700 dams, and the Nashville District operates and maintains 10 dams within the Cumberland River Basin. The dams provide enormous benefits to the country, contributing to $13.4 billion of flood damages prevented in 2013, or $8 of damages avoided for every $1 invested.
For additional perspective on the importance of flood risk reduction in the Cumberland River Basin, Center Hill Dam prevents close to $43 million in flood damages and Wolf Creek Dam prevents approximately $48 million in flood damages annually in 2015 dollars.
“We are very fortunate to have many dams in our area that provide numerous benefits that we enjoy such as flood risk reduction, hydropower, navigation, recreation and water supply,” said Jimmy Waddle, Nashville District’s chief of Engineering and Construction. “Two of our dams were identified in the highest risk of failure category. Within the past 10 years we have worked hard to reduce the risks associated with failure of these dams.”
Waddle said while the Corps can never eliminate the risks that exist with dam structures, it is possible to reduce the risks associated with catastrophic failures.
USACE is proud of its accomplishments and dam safety record of no catastrophic dam failures. National Dam Safety Awareness Day provides the opportunity to consider how citizens and communities can recognize the importance of risk awareness, knowing and understanding the risks and benefits associated with dams, and for people to take action to help reduce risk from living near a dam.
Information is available to the public on programs underway to reduce the risks associated with dams such as the National Dam Safety Program, as well as the roles and responsibilities of the local, state, and federal organizations that work to keep dams safe. National Dam Safety Awareness Day is a great opportunity to get more information regarding dams and dam safety.
National Dam Safety Awareness Day occurs each year to commemorate the South Fork Dam failure that occurred on May 31, 1889 in Johnstown, Pa. The worst dam failure in the history of the United States, this tragic event resulted in the deaths of 2,200 people and left thousands homeless.
To learn more about the National Dam Safety Program check out the brochure, Living with Dams: Know your Risks.
(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. The public can also visit Cheatham Lake’s Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cheathamlake.)