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TVA continues Boone Lake investigation

Though public speculation is leading to some dire predictions, a Tennessee Valley Authority representative said last week the Boone Reservoir investigation is ongoing.
“We are not seeing any results to make us think there is anything wrong with the dam,” said Jim Hopson, TVA manager of public relations.
The investigation began in November 2014 after a sink hole was discovered the month before near the dam. Though the sink hole was repaired, Hopson said they were unable to determine the source that led to its development.
“The next week, an employee noticed seepage from the bank near the dam, which may or may not be related,” he said. “Since we were already lowering the reservoir, we lowered it 10 feet below the normal winter pool level.”
Hopson said TVA communicated clearly at the time with local stakeholders, including property and business owners, marinas and elected officials, about their plans.
The investigation is being led by the group of TVA engineers who monitor the safety of the system’s 49 dams, according to Hopson. Independent engineering firms also have been brought in to assist the TVA team.
Numerous geotechnical studies and inspections are being conducted using high-tech equipment, including side-scan sonar, remotely controlled submarines and ground-penetrating radar.
“The work is extremely technical when you’re dealing with something as complex as a dam system,” Hopson said, emphasizing TVA is working diligently to understand whether a problem exists.
“We are approaching this with a sense of urgency in order to take any necessary action as soon as possible,” he said. “Our priority is the safety for those on the reservoir and those downstream.”
TVA usually allows the reservoir level to start climbing up in late March, though Hopson said it depends also on the weather and how much water has been brought into the system. No decision on when that will begin in 2015 has been made.