By Dave Ongie, News Editor
After a sinkhole was found near the base of Boone Dam back in October of 2014, life changed for those who live, work and play on Boone Lake.
The leaks under an earthen embankment located adjacent to the concrete portion of the dam necessitated a lowering of the water level on the reservoir, which has greatly impacted those who own businesses and homes on Boone Lake. Last Friday, representatives from the TVA provided local media members with a briefing on the status of the project, which remains on schedule to be completed by May of 2021 with the reservoir still on track to return to normal operations by July of 2022.
With 1.2 million man-hours already on the books, it’s been a long road for sure, but TVA senior manager of civil construction Kevin Holbrook said the safety of the people downstream from the dam and the workers completing the project has always come first.
“We’re building a good quality product, and we’re on schedule to be done and have this thing turned over to normal operation July of 2022,” Holbrook said. “When we finish the wall in May (2021), we’re going to turn this over to dam safety to do the final quality assurance program. Throughout the process, we’re confident we’re doing the right thing, and we’re validating it as we go. But for protection of the people downstream, we’re going to go all the way with this.”
Holbrook said the procedure for the completion of the Boone Dam Project was formulated by bringing in industry experts who fixed similar problems at Wolf Creek Dam in Kentucky and Center Hill Dam, which is located roughly 100 miles north of Nashville. Once a plan was devised, Holbrook said the TVA has checked and re-checked its work every step of the way to ensure the finished product will last the test of time.
While work continues, the TVA is wrapping up its first year of vegetation management. Sam Vinson, principal project manager of the Boone Dam Project, outlined the community outreach the TVA has done to help homeowners clear growth from the exposed lakebed on their properties.
Vinson estimated that 650 acres have been cleared by TVA crews thus far, and he expects more trimming will commence early next year. With that being said, there is growth that cannot be cleared for a variety of reasons, and that could pose a risk for boaters and water skiers once the reservoir returns to full pool in July of 2022. Vinson said recreational boating falls under the jurisdiction of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, but even then, it will be up to individual boaters to monitor the new topography of the lake in order to avoid injury or damage due to vegetation under the surface.
“Recreational boating falls on the TWRA, but that responsibility falls on the person who has the boating license to be safe,” Vinson said. “There’s going to have to be increased awareness.
“You’ll still have the same obligation you had before to be aware of hazards and objects and things of that nature.”
As the time draws closer, Vinson said the TVA will likely partner with the TWRA and the community to raise awareness about the hazards vegetation could pose to boaters in some areas of the lake. He said signage will be posted at boat docks, and a communication plan will be developed to help folks using the lake for recreation to remain vigilant.
But Vinson also added that the problem will likely be short-lived. Foresters he’s consulted with have said the upper portions of the taller vegetation should be gone after two years or so of normal operation in the reservoir.
For more information about the progress of the Boone Dam Project, visit www.tva.gov/newsroom/Boone-Dam-Project.