The Tennessee Valley Authority announced Tuesday that it will begin raising the water level of Boone Lake in six weeks — and this time, there is no plan to lower it again.
Since launching the project to repair the Boone Dam, TVA has kept the water level at between 1,350 and 1,355 feet, said Mary Ellen Miller, the project’s community relations program manager.
But starting the week of Oct. 15, TVA will raise the level by 7 feet, Miller said. The increase will happen at the rate of 2 feet per week until the lake level reaches 1,360 feet, “right around mid-November,” she explained.
“We will then hold that elevation of 1,360 [feet] all the way until mid-March, and then it will continue to rise again,” Miller said Tuesday. “So that’s pretty exciting news for the public.”
Miller said that TVA is raising the lake level to run some new tests as it nears the end of the dam repair, which she said is expected to be completed early next year.
But the water level is also being boosted to help with vegetation removal from patches of land that were exposed when the water went down. The latter is something lake property owners have requested TVA’s help with, she added.
“We use a TVA barge to gain access [to those land patches] via the water when we’re doing our mulching and cutting program,” Miller said.
If everything goes as planned, by summer 2021, Boone Lake’s water level could “potentially” return to its regular summer level of around 1,380 feet. She said that TVA will share more about its plans for next year in an Oct. 15 virtual town hall. Details about that meeting will be forthcoming.
“The main emphasis right now is to give the public plenty of notice, so that if they have items along the shoreline, they can secure or move those,” Miller said.
“We’re ... working with the folks on Boone Lake to do everything we can to bring Boone Lake back down to pre-drawdown levels,” she added.
The dam at Boone Lake is part concrete and part earthen embankment.
In October 2014, a sinkhole was discovered in a parking lot near the dam’s control building. Several days later, muddy water started seeping from the base of the dam’s earthen section — a sign of internal erosion that could lead to the dam’s failure if it wasn’t addressed, Miller said.
For the past six years, TVA has kept the lake level at around 10 feet below its winter pool level, which is around 30 feet below its summer pool level, to make the needed repairs.
The company’s Boone Dam Project webpage says the final result will be a “composite seepage barrier,” a huge concrete wall, sandwiched in grout, that will run through the earthen embankment and continue down into the underlying bedrock.
“It’s a major, major construction project,” Miller said.
Val Kosmider, a board member and former president of the Boone Lake Association, said the association is “as happy as anyone is” about TVA’s announcement.
“Finally, after years, literally, of dealing with lower lake levels, I just think this is ... a huge step in the right direction,” Kosmider said Tuesday.
“It’s only going to be 6 or 8 feet, but it’s a beginning,” he added. “I think it shows confidence in the work TVA has done at the dam site.”
Kosmider added that he appreciates the six weeks of notice TVA is giving lake property owners to move or secure their belongings around the shoreline.
“Now, we have a lot of new infrastructure that property owners have put on the lake level,” he explained. “They kind of moved the beach down to the lower water line.”
The Boone Lake Association has partnered with TVA to help those people get rid of anything they don’t want to bother shifting to higher ground, Kosmider said. The association has offered to help property owners get their trash to dumpsters and appropriate burn sites.
“There are a lot of old docks ... a lot of old shacks and things that have kind of slid down the bank,” he said. “When the water comes up, if that stuff is not removed, it’s going to float away, and it’s going to create a hazard out on the lake,” he said.
Kosmider said that having the lake’s water level return to normal will be “an exciting time” for both residents and businesses, particularly some marinas that have been hard-hit by the lake’s reduced level.
He said he also expects it to be a “very challenging time” for the Boone Lake Association, though, given its focus on keeping debris out of the lake.
“We’re expecting ungodly amounts of stuff to come into the water,” he said.
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