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As it manages flow, TVA anticipates higher water levels at local tributary reservoirs

David Floyd • Feb 6, 2020 at 6:10 PM

As heavy rain causes flooding in the region, residents could see higher water levels at tributary reservoirs like South Holston and Watauga as the Tennessee Valley Authority regulates the flow of water through its river system.

“For those who live on the water, work or play on the water, they simply need to be prepared for some rapidly rising and changing water levels as we store that water,” TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said, “and then, later on this weekend, start releasing the water so that we can recover that storage capability as we move into what we expect will be another rainy period next week.”

Hopson said the agency operates the entire Tennessee River system, including all the tributary reservoirs, as one big machine. 

During events like this, the agency aims to move as much water as possible out of the main Tennessee River system early to maximize its storage space. The TVA then shuts off any flows it can from the tributary reservoirs and holds back water in those large reservoirs as the system moves the water that flows into the Tennessee River from unregulated streams and rivers downstream.

The agency then gradually releases the water from the tributary reservoirs, evening out the flow across the entire system to ensure the water doesn’t hit the same location at the same time.

“The reservoirs that TVA manages in the Tri-Cities area are absolutely critical not only to the safety of those downstream in your location, but they’re absolutely critical to allowing us to safely manage the Tennessee River as far away as 500 or 600 river miles,” Hopson said.

Hopson anticipates the water level at Watauga will approach or exceed the body’s normal summer pool level, South Holston and Fort Patrick Henry will likely be short of their summer pool levels and Boone will reach the higher end of its revised operating level, which has been implemented during the repair work to the earthen embankment at Boone Dam.

“It’s very wise to keep a very close eye on the river levels, the lake levels,” Hopson said, which people can do online by visiting the Lake Levels page on the TVA website.

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