Sluice Gate Releases Planned at Center Hill Dam

July 20, 2006
Dwayne Page

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to take measures starting on Monday at Center Hill Dam to increase the dissolved oxygen content of releases to the Caney Fork River. This action will benefit aquatic life downstream.

Sluice gate releases will be made concurrent with generation of electricity in the hydropower plant beginning on July 24. By scheduling sluice releases during periods of power generation, the Corps will be able to meet downstream water-quality objectives and minimize impacts to fishermen and power interests. The measures are considered the best way to maintain the State water quality standard.

\"Our objective,\" said Bob Sneed, chief of the Nashville District Water Management Section, \"is to maintain beneficial dissolved oxygen levels and ultimately improve the aquatic life in the Caney Fork River. This operation was very successful last year. We were able to mix the highly aerated sluice release with turbine discharge that was, at times, quite low in dissolved oxygen, to produce a blended project release that met our goal of 6.0 milligrams per liter. We are trying to meet the State water quality standard which is 6.0 milligrams per liter for a cold-water environment like the Caney Fork below Center Hill Dam.\"

In 2005 this reach of the Caney Fork experienced the best oxygen conditions it had seen since the impoundment of Center Hill Lake. As a result, more aquatic life, including stocked brown and rainbow trout, were able to thrive during this critical period.

Officials plan to schedule discharges between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and to only two hours on Fridays, weekends and holidays. However, power needs or weather conditions could dictate a change to this plan.

Corps representatives will periodically monitor the dissolved oxygen concentration in the river below the dam to determine the success of the sluice gate releases.

The sluice gate measures four feet by six feet and releases approximately 1600 cubic feet per second into the tailwater. The Corps has added turbine venting features to three hydropower turbines at Center Hill resulting in an increase to the dissolved oxygen level of hydropower releases. The sluice gate release is simply another practice employed by the Corps to improve water quality conditions in the Caney Fork River. These actions are consistent with the Corps' Environmental Operating Principles.

These Principles are to maintain an environment in a healthy, diverse and sustainable condition necessary to support life, proactively consider the consequences of Corps programs, accept responsibility for activities under our control that impact the health of natural systems, seek ways to mitigate such impacts, and seek solutions to the nation's problems that enhance the environment.

Corps officials will work closely with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, TWRA, and SEPA which benefits from power generated. Fishermen and boaters should avoid the turbulent water created by the sluice gate below the dam. Turbulence could actually pull small craft in toward the dam and submerge them.

For more information, contact Bob Sneed, Nashville District Corps of Engineers, at 615-736-5675.

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