Center Hill Lake levels rising for 2020 recreation season

February 24, 2020

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District has received approval to return Center Hill Lake to normal operations, which means that lake levels will be on the rise for the upcoming recreation season.

The Nashville District has operated Center Hill Lake since 2008 within a targeted pool elevation between 618 and 630 feet as an interim risk reduction measure during the dam safety rehabilitation project. A return to normal operations means the summer pool elevation will be managed between 640 and 648 feet and the winter pool between 625 and 630 feet.

Project Manager Jill Kelley said repair actions involved three major construction contracts. The first project involved a significant foundation grouting effort at the main dam embankment and left rim. The Corps then installed a concrete barrier as deep as 307 feet into the foundation to stop seepage. The project is culminating with the soon to be completed roller compacted concrete berm at the saddle dam to reduce risk of foundation failure and potential back-cutting of the saddle dam.

“Returning to normal operations will give the Nashville District the ability to manage the additional water within the reservoir to best balance all Congressionally-authorized project purposes and support downstream water management operating objectives,” Kelley said. “Returning to normal operations will allow more of the late winter and spring project inflows to be stored in the reservoir.”

Water supply users downstream will likely see reductions in taste and odor issues, improved water treatment, and reduced treatments costs due to increased flows in the Cumberland River during the summer and fall. These increased flows will improve water quality conditions at the lock and dam projects on the Cumberland River, in particular temperature and dissolved oxygen, and will benefit aquatic life downstream of the reservoir.

Kelley added that operations will reduce off-peak hydropower generation during the spring filling period. Subsequently, the water in storage will be available for hydropower production during peak demand periods later in the year, she said.

Recreation on Center Hill Lake will benefit from higher pool elevations during the peak recreation season. Recreation downstream will also benefit from improved water quality conditions and a more consistent flow pattern.

Efforts to lift the restricted operating criteria were coordinated with the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Water Management, TVA River Operations, Southeastern Power Administration, National Weather Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

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