CINCINNATI - Dam Safety is a crucial mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and in particular, the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division – the Division I currently Command. I have heard the concerns from the public about the proposed quarry on non-federal property adjacent to Old Hickory Dam. I want to assure everyone that my Corps dam safety professionals have thoroughly evaluated the quarry’s proposal to ensure that Old Hickory Dam will not be harmed. I am neither for, nor against the quarry – I am only for the safety of Old Hickory and the safety of the public affected by Old Hickory.
My Division is also home to the USACE Dam Safety Center of Expertise. We implement a dam safety program nationwide to ensure our dams deliver their intended benefits while reducing risk to people, property, and the environment through continuous assessment, communication and management. We use risk-informed decision making for dam safety decisions and pay particular attention to activities such as drilling and blasting near or around our dams. Blasting operations near a dam are not uncommon, and in fact recently occurred right next to Kentucky Lock and Dam. To assist in risk-informed management, almost every dam we own uses piezometers and other monitoring devices to detect changes, which may signal a pending, issue with the structure. Based on modeling of worst-case blast scenarios conducted by my dam safety professionals, we believe that risks are extremely low for any damage whatsoever to the Old Hickory Lock and Dam project due to the proposed quarry operations. If I believed otherwise, I would immediately seek to limit the proposed quarry operations to a point where I was satisfied that chances for damage were indeed minimal.
My Nashville District recommends, and I agree, that if the proposed rock quarry becomes operational, we will execute enhanced monitoring of blast vibrations to validate our findings and facilitate field adjustments in the quarry's operation. Under no circumstances will the Corps of Engineers agree to blast operations that exceed tolerable limits, which would cause any damage to Old Hickory Lock and Dam.
In the next day or so, I will personally visit Old Hickory Lock and Dam with city and Congressional leaders from Nashville – this is my third trip to Nashville - my second one to Old Hickory Dam - in the past seven months because Nashville is that important to me. I want to be clear that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is neither for, nor against a quarry. We are for Dam Safety and will continue to ensure that our projects deliver their congressionally authorized purposes safely and effectively. We will also continue to communicate risk to the public. Old Hickory Lock and Dam will remain safe and effective, with or without a quarry.
For those interested in the technical background about this issue, you can find a preliminary analysis of potential quarry effects on the Nashville District webpage at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Media/OldHickoryRockQuarry.aspx.