The Nashville District Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is anticipating that heavy rains over the past weeks will result in higher-than-normal pool elevations for some time on the Cumberland River system lakes it manages.
Center Hill Lake, Dale Hollow, Percy Priest and Lake Cumberland in Kentucky are all discharging vast quantities of water in wake of a storm system that dumped 3-4 inches of rain around the region late last week.
Precipitation Friday and Saturday raised reservoirs along the Cumberland River to levels not seen since the spring floods of 2010 or before. Rainfall in Nashville for the month of February this year has surpassed 13.5 inches — reportedly breaking a previous record set in 1880.
The reservoir level behind Center Hill Dam Monday morning was reported at over 677.43 feet and still rising. That’s 20 feet higher than it was early Saturday morning. Officials said the lake could rise above 680 feet before its starts to recede. That’s tremendously higher than the 625 feet that water-level managers want to get the lake down to before summer in order to finish a scheduled boat-ramp construction project near the dam.
The Corps’ Nashville District water management specialist Anthony Rodino predicts higher than normal water-releases for the foreseeable future from dams along the Cumberland.
Water levels along Center Hill Lake have eclipsed parking lots and shore-area recreation grounds. The picnic area adjacent to Edgar Evins Marina was completely submerged as of Sunday, as were a large portion of improved campground facilities at Floating Mill Park near Hurricane Marina.
Despite well-publicized concerns over the years about the structural soundness of dams along the Cumberland River system — especially Center Hill and Wolf Creek in Kentucky — Nashville District USACE commander Cullen Jones said the impoundments have performed flawlessly so far.
“While there were localized flooding impacts, especially along unregulated waterways, the Corps of Engineers dams held a lot of water back,” Jones said.
According to the Corps, Nashville water levels “would have exceeded 55 feet without the dams holding water during recent rains.”
“The water level in Nashville crested in minor flood stage near 41 feet, so the dams reduced the water level on the Cumberland River in Music City over 14 feet,” the USACE press release said.