Barkley Reservoir To Reduce Ohio River And Mississippi River Flood Crests

The Nashville Engineer District announced March 2 that it is continuing its flood control operation by using flood control storage in Lake Barkley to help mitigate the ongoing flood event on the Ohio River.  The Corps said this may cause minor high water impacts to communities along the Cumberland River in Lyon and Trigg counties in Kentucky, and Stewart and Montgomery counties in Tennessee.

Releases from Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River in Kuttawa, Ky., are being reduced as the Ohio River flood crest passes downstream.  This reduction in discharge contributes to lowering the crest on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, thereby reducing flood risk at cities such as Paducah, Ky., Cairo, Ill., Memphis, Tenn., Vicksburg Miss., and New Orleans, La.

The reduction in discharges at Barkley will cause the lake to rise above winter pool elevations, leading to elevated stages all along the 130-mile long Barkley pool.  At this time, the Corps said it is expecting a Barkley Lake maximum elevation of 365 to 368 feet.  This is 11 to 14 feet higher than the typical winter elevation and 6 to 9 feet higher than the typical summer elevation.  While minor impacts are expected in these communities, the Corps will not store water above its flooding easement.

The Corps said that this past February was the wettest February in Nashville since 1890. Eleven inches of rainfall were recorded at local rain gages—two to three times average. Natural hydrologic modeling shows that without Corps dams on the Cumberland River, the stage in Nashville may have exceeded and remained above flood stage for 11 consecutive days.  Without the system of flood control reservoirs above Nashville, the maximum stage was modeled to have been 47.7 feet to 7.7 feet above flood stage.  Additionally, the stage on the Cumberland River at Clarksville was modeled to have exceeded flood stage for 12 consecutive days, reaching a maximum stage of 52.4 feet to 6.4 feet above flood stage.Modeling shows that Corps reservoirs reduced the crest at Nashville by 14.1 feet and at Clarksville by 8.5 feet.

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Total water stored in flood control reservoirs above Nashville in the month of February is over 667 billion gallons. This is equivalent to:
• 1,000,000 Olympic sized swimming pools;
• greater than 10 years of water supply for Nashville;
• if stacked on a football field, water would be 293 miles high; and
• 5 trillion,16.9-ounce bottled waters.