TVA raising height of four dams for safe operation

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is raising the height of four of its dams to help reduce the risk of flooding in the event of weather more extreme than any conditions ever recorded in the region.

This work is necessary after a recent update of TVA’s river modeling program determined that the maximum floodwater elevations could be higher than previously calculated if a worst-case winter rainfall were to occur in the upper part of the Tennessee Valley watershed, says Terry Johnson in TVA’s communications department.

The four dams being raised are the dams at hydro projects 136-MW Cherokee, 155.6-MW Fort Loudoun, and 40-MW Watts Bar and Tellico Dam (which supplies water to the Fort Loudoun powerhouse).

To raise the dams, TVA will use Concertainers from Hesco Bastion. Concertainers are prefabricated, multi-cellular systems made of coated steel-welded mesh and lined with a non-woven polypropylene geotextile. These temporary, wall-like structures, placed on top of earthen embankments at the dam, will raise the top elevation by about 4 feet. The extra height will prevent water from overtopping and damaging the embankments, Johnson says.

TVA plans to have these structures installed by January 1, 2010, because large regional floods are most likely to occur in winter and early spring. The structures will remain in place until TVA identifies and implements a permanent solution to manage the probable maximum flood for these structures, says Johnson.

Johnson says it will cost about $8 million to install the Concertainers on the four dams. G-UB-MK Constructors and TVA employees will perform the modifications to raise the height of the embankments. G-UB-MK, which started as a joint venture among several companies in the early 1990s to perform work for TVA, has a long-term contract with TVA to perform modifications and maintenance activities at its hydro and fossil plants, Johnson says.

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