Sand-filled gabion baskets line the embankment along Fort Loudoun Dam. TVA is raising the elevation of four of its dams to help reduce the risk of flooding in the event of inclement weather.

Just about a year and a half ago, geniuses at TVA were just finishing up placing all those silly sand boxes all along the top of the earthen parts of the Fort Loudon and Tellico dams.  The idea was, in the event of a flood, the likes that haven't been seen since Noah, these sand boxes would somehow hold back the flood waters. Only government officials could be so stupid.

Now after spending millions of dollars on the silly sand boxes, TVA may be going to remove them. Somebody should be in jail over this one.

TVA to hold public meeting, will explore issues, options on sand basket dam walls


Vicky Newman-News-Herald

Maybe an epic flood has not happened since the time of Noah, but some scientists say it could.

After two years, Tennessee Valley Authority is considering either removing the unsightly, view-obstructing "sandbasket walls," strategically placed around Fort Loudoun, Tellico, Cherokee and Watts Bar dams, or replacing them with permanent structures. The sand baskets added 4 feet to the existing concrete structures, in an effort to protect the earthen dam structures from erosion in an extreme flooding situation.

While they protected the electrical distributor's assets, local property owners complain the sand baskets detract from the natural beauty.

An open house/public meeting on the issue will take place in Lenoir City at the War Memorial Building Tuesday, July 26, 3-7 p.m., to solicit input from area residents on TVA's options and answer questions.

"We're in the early stages of the decision process," said TVA spokesman Travis Brickey. "The sand baskets were designed to enhance flood protection, to prevent water from overtopping the dam in an extreme flood event. But they were not designed to be permanent."

TVA received a flood of objections and criticisms from officials and residents after the sand baskets were installed in 2009. At that time, the Probable Maximum Flood seemed an unlikely scenario to many in East Tennessee. Since then, however, flooding has been increasing.

"A lot of flood events have brought about a lot of thought this year. On the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, they had to blow up dykes that they had been saying would never happen. Never is a big word."

Engineers have looked at the Probable Maximum Precipitation (PMP) and Probable Maximum Flood (PMF) and determined through computer models that the dam overflow could happen, and erode the earthen dams, placing the entire area at extreme risk, as well as the electrical system.

Probable Maximum Precipitation is the greatest depth (amount) of precipitation, for a given storm duration, that is theoretically possible for a particular area and geographic location.

The Probable Maximum Flood (PMF) is the flood that may be expected from the most severe combination of critical meteorological and hydrologic conditions that are reasonably possible in a particular drainage area.
Brickley said it is critical that TVA protect its assets in the Tennessee Valley, considering  not just the local dams, but the electrical plants they protect.

"We sandbagged because we had a series of reactors to protect. Flooding of facility be potential for their destruction. ... TVA does not want that to happen - I don't think anybody wants it to happen."

However, a committee established by the Tellico Village Home Owners Association has concluded that the PMF calculated by TVA is "technically unsound."

In a letter to Rep. Jimmy Matlock, Dennis Stanczuk, chairman of the HOA-TVA Liaison Committee, stated because of the "significant environmental impact and substantial public controversy associated with this project," the committee would like for TVA to develop a full environmental impact statement.

The committee's key concerns center around the data used in the modeling, the type of model used to assess risk, and the environmental impact to five counties in Tennessee, according to information provided by Matlock.

Matlock said he plans to attend the meeting at the Memorial Building, and hopes to see the community become involved.

"This meeting is to answer concerns of the local constituents," Matlock said. He explained that the format for the public discussion is not actually a meeting, but a come-and-go event. Attendees will be able to approach various stations around the room to ask questions and receive answers, over a four-hour period. The format was decided because officials feared the meeting would be swamped.

"Folks have said they were concerned, and a lot of that was because there was no previous communication (when the sand baskets were installed)," Matlock said. "My constituents felt like it was a  quick reaction to a study, with no local consideration or opportunity for public discussion - no opportunity for the locals to weigh in."

Matlock, who had been vocal in his criticism of the sand baskets in the beginning said he has been taken aback by the flooding events in Tennessee since that time, costing the state millions of dollars.

"It has been dramatic. We have seen flooding across the country, and our state, from Nashville to Memphis, but I still have a great deal of reservation about this."