NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — This week the House passed a final bill with language originally introduced by Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper that would expedite a feasibility study of Old Hickory Dam and Cordell Hull Dam.
Both dams are upstream of Nashville. The study would to take a closer look flood risk management as one of their authorized purposes.
“The two most important dams for protecting Nashville are Old Hickory and Cordell Hull,” explained Congressman Cooper. “For many, many decades they have not been allowed to be used for flood risk management. I finally got a law passed through Congress to allow those dams to be used to protect Nashville.”
“The 2010 Flood was devastating. We need to make sure it never happens again. We must do everything we can to make sure that Nashville is protected. And this is a completely free remedy that gives the Army Corps of Engineers the flexibility to better manage Old Hickory and Cordell Hull Dams.”
But unlike the huge reservoir dams upstream like Wolf Creek Dam in Kentucky, where the spillway gates are some 37 feet tall, the tops of the flood gates on Old Hickory Dam are only 2-3 feet above normal lake levels. However, Congressman Cooper said there is still enough storage to have saved many areas downstream in Nashville in 2010.
“Right now, they are only 2-3 feet of flood protection, but that’s millions of acre-feet of water that would not be there to drown Nashville, if needed,” said Congressman Cooper. “And the Corps could lower the dam levels a little bit more so we could have 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 feet of protection for Nashville.”
Lowering the lake levels in Old Hickory Lake in advance of a potential flooding rain event may cause many dock owners to make some adjustments, but it’s a compromise that some say is worth it for Nashville sitting downstream.
The Senate now needs to pass the final bipartisan agreement, which is expected, before sending the bill to the President’s desk for his signature.