Center Hill Team Makes Recommendations To Ensure Dam's Safety

September 9, 2007
Dwayne Page

An independent team of engineers has reviewed planned repairs to Center Hill Dam and made key recommendations to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to U.S. Representative Bart Gordon.

The recommendations made by the peer review panel include an immediate reduction in the water level at Center Hill Lake to reduce pressure on the dam.

"The Corps should take every reasonable precaution to protect the lives and property of those who live downstream of Center Hill Dam," said Gordon. "While the Corps tells me a dam break is unlikely, the results would be devastating."

Last month, Gordon went to the dam and met with Corps officials regarding the planned repairs. The $240 million, six-year rehabilitation will involve the addition of grouting to voids where seepage is occurring in the earthen dam. Installation of a concrete cut-off wall into the rock foundation of the dam will provide another level of defense against future seepage.

Problems with seepage have been a problem at Center Hill Dam since its completion in 1951. The most recent rehabilitation to the dam occurred in 1992, when grouting was added to combact seepage.

"Addressing the seepage problems will greatly enhance safety for the Middle Tennesseans who live downstream, as well as for the many people who visit the lake each year," said Gordon. "While the rehabilitation will cause temporary headaches, the end result will be a safer place for recreation and residence."

While Corps officials say there is no immediate danger of the dam failing, they are monitoring the seepage so that emergency actions could be taken to lessen the possibility of a catastrophic breach occurring.

A catastrophic dam failure could result in significant damage and loss of life if water from Center Hill Lake were to flood downstream communities.

The Corps is planning to hold public meetings later this year in downstream communities and is working with the Department of Homeland Security to provide residents with maps depicting potential flooding in the event of a failure at the dam.

A copy of the full peer review report is available at the Corps' web site at

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