Spillways are set to close Thursday but lake will keep falling

By THOMAS P. WEAVER

HORIZON Editor

CELINA-Since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the spillways at Dale Hollow Dam for an unprecedented third year in a row over a week ago, lake levels here had fallen around five feet as of Monday afternoon and recently released projections showed a continued decline of another couple of feet by the end of the work week even though the spillway gates are scheduled to be closed Thursday.

According to information from the Corps Nashville District Water Management Division sent out in an email to marina operators Monday, instructions were issued to reduce the volume of water currently passing through the spillway gates by half, with the reduction being instituted the same day, and the upcoming closure of the spillways was announced.

The information did say “all three hydropower (generation) units will continue to be run around the clock,” and that “the remainder of the drawdown will be accomplished with hydropower releases” en route to a “target elevation of around 652,” which is only a foot higher than the normal summer pool of 651.

“The plan is to hold this elevation fairly constant, depending on future rainfall, using hydropower releases until such time that downstream conditions on the Cumberland River dictate that additional water is withdrawn from Dale Hollow,” the information said.

After reaching the third highest level on record (660.16), the lake had fallen to just under 655 feet above sea level as of HORIZON press time, and, with a projected elevation of around 653 by Friday, many marina’s operations should be near normal for the upcoming weekend.

The near record level had inundated marina parking lots, covered up access roads, and surrounded lakeside structures with water, but relief was seen quickly as the rise was halted by the action taken by the Corps on Saturday, May 7.

A Corps news release posted on their website the day the flood gates were opened said the action was taken to “preserve (the lake’s) capacity to store water,” and that it was done as a part of a “balancing act” of “storing and releasing water at all of (the Corps Nashville District) projects to manage water flows and alleviate ongoing flooding on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.”

Corps officials here want the visiting public to understand the importance of being cautious and safe under the current high-water conditions on the lake.

“We’d just like folks to know that the lake is usable in a variety of places.  We just encourage customers to call ahead of time before they make the trip to inquire to see if the ramp is open or if the marina services are limited,” Corps ranger Sondra Carmen said in the release,  “and when you are out boating or using the lake, please use caution around the shoreline.”

Carmen noted in the release that there is debris floating in the lake and explained people recreating need to be extra careful there and below the dam in the Obey River. 

“It’s also very important to stay distant from the tail water below the dam because it is very dangerous for anyone to get pulled into the deadly currents,” she said.

Brock Jones, another local Corps ranger, said everyone at the lake has been affected by the high water, but they are also aware of the greater purpose storing water represents to the people in flood zones in Kentucky and western Tennessee.

“We did what we needed to do.  Dale Hollow held a lot of water back off of them,” Jones said in the news release.  “So it maintained its flood control purpose, which I guess is the most important thing the dam was built for.”

The news release also included a video of lake conditions when the level was at its peak. View the video and read the full release at www.lrn.usace.army.mil

A SIGHT TO SEE-A crowd gathered to see Dale Hollow Dam spillways open on May 7 to preserve storage capacity in the lake, including (second from right) Corps ranger Sondra Carmen, who was on hand to answer questions posed by onlookers of the historic event. The flood gates are set to close Thursday, giving those who have yet to see the spectacle only a few more hours to do so. (USACE photo by Lee Roberts and courtesy of www.lrn.usace.army.mil)

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