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Boone Lake to remain at lower level

While the Tennessee Valley Authority insists there are no questions about the stability of the concrete portion of Boone Dam, officials announced last week the lake water will remain at its current level for at least the next year while an investigation into the area below continues.
“We’re discussing the earthen portion of the dam only,” Vice President John McCormick said during a press briefing on Feb. 26. “What is under the surface of the dam is what is alarming us, and bringing down the water takes pressure off the dam.”
The reservoir was lowered 10 feet below the normal winter pool level after seepage from the riverbank below the dam was discovered last fall following the repair of a sinkhole. “Sink holes are not uncommon, seepage is,” he said.
McCormick said a reverse filter has been installed to stop the seepage into the waterway. “We are constantly monitoring it, and we are continuing to do our investigation in the subsurface of the dam itself,” he said.
Initial results indicate erosion may be occurring within the foundation of the earthen embankment at normal lake levels. Without correcting the issue, raising the level of the lake could potentially increase the rate of erosion.
Jennifer Dodd, dam safety officer, said the 29 bore holes drilled into the karst geology have identified voids in the limestone that could potentially serve as spaces where water would accumulate. Work will begin this spring to fill those voids with grout to strengthen the conditions underneath the earthen embankment while TVA determines the best permanent repair options.
“We’ve looked at every type of possible problem and every type of possible repair,” McCormick said. “We don’t want to bring the water back up and have to lower it again.”
McCormick acknowledged the inconvenience for residents who are upstream. “While they could normally reach the water, now they can’t throw a stone to it,” he said.
Boaters are encouraged to use caution while operating in lower-than-normal water levels, which can contain hazards such as rocks, stumps and debris.
TVA will hold a community open house at Daniel Boone High School on Tuesday, March 10, from 5-8 p.m. to provide information on the Boone Dam project.
Information also can be found at www.tva.gov/boonedrawdown or www.facebook.com/TVA.