The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is holding back water and limiting releases at its dams to relieve high-water levels on the lower Ohio and Mississippi Rivers where record seasonal flooding is under way.
The river stage at Cairo, Ill., at 11 a.m. was 48.69 feet. This falls within the moderate flood stage range. However, with crops planted in the fields this is considered major flood stage. According to records, this high-water event has the highest elevation at this control point in Cairo than any event in the July-November period going back to 1858.
“The nation’s inland waterways are operated as a system,” said Bob Sneed, Nashville District Water Management Section chief. “The water that flows from the Cumberland River Basin impacts water levels elsewhere. So we manage the releases at our dams to add water in times of drought or to alleviate flooding like in this situation.”
Sneed said the Nashville District has already made significant reductions of its releases at Wolf Creek Dam in Jamestown, Ky., Dale Hollow Dam in Celina, Tenn., and J. Percy Priest Dam in Hermitage, Tenn. The district will also begin holding water back at Center Hill Dam to reduce the amount of water it releases into the Caney Fork River and then into the Cumberland River to stem flows downstream into Lake Barkley.
Barkley and Kentucky reservoirs are providing critical storage for reducing flood crests on the lower Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The Corps operates Barkley Dam in Kuttawa, Ky., and Lake Barkley on the Cumberland River while the Tennessee Valley Authority operates Kentucky Dam in Grand Rivers, Ky., and Kentucky Lake on the Tennessee River. The Cumberland and Tennessee River Basins flow into the lower Ohio River.
Corps officials want boaters to be aware that as water levels get higher at Corps lakes that floating debris and underwater hazards may be present. In addition, there may be some courtesy floats at boat ramps that may be inaccessible due to high-water conditions.
The Nashville District expects some impacts at its recreation areas and campgrounds where the water is rising on the shoreline. The Corps plans to notify campers that have reservations if their campsites are affected and to keep the public informed of water management operations.