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    Nashville District celebrates its 125th Anniversary

    Nashville District celebrates its 125th Anniversary

    Courtesy Photo | Country music star Dolly Parton performs at the Cordell Hull Dam Dedication Oct. 13,...... read more read more



    Story by Fred Tucker 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is celebrating 125 years of service to the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers Basins and to the Nation that began when the district was created Aug. 18, 1888 under the command of Lt. Col. John W. Barlow.

    This action reversed the situation created October 9, 1873 when Capt. Lewis Cooper Overman, Corps of Engineers, was reassigned from Chattanooga to Nashville and opened the Office of the Cumberland River Improvement as a suboffice of the Chattanooga District.

    Barlow had assumed command of operations on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers in 1866 as the Chattanooga District Engineer. A combat engineer veteran of the Battle of Bull Run, the Peninsular Campaign, the Battle of Atlanta, and the Battle of Nashville during the Civil War, Barlow’s right-hand man in charge of improving the Cumberland at the Nashville suboffice was assistant engineer Charles A. Locke, a veteran of Forrest’s Confederate cavalry.

    These two veterans who would have shot each other on sight 21 years earlier were soon working together in preparing designs for the first lock and dam on the Cumberland to be constructed just below the Nashville harbor (Lock and Dam No. 1).

    A Board of Engineer Officers reviewed their plans, set dimensions of locks at 52-by-280 feet, approved the timber-crib, stone filled type dams, and canalization of the Cumberland began in 1888. At the urgent request of the Cumberland River Commission, the Engineering faculty at Vanderbilt University, various legislators, and at the direction of the acting Secretary of War, Special Orders No. 191 changed the station of Lt. Col. John W. Barlow from Chattanooga to Nashville.

    Jurisdictional Interests

    As would be expected today when a Federal agency relocates, citizens of Chattanooga were upset and held a mass meeting to protest the move, but Barlow explained to them that the work at the Muscle Shoals Canal was nearing completion and the extensive slackwater project commencing on the Cumberland required his presence. He added that a suboffice would be maintained at Chattanooga under his supervision.

    Army engineers began mapping the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers for improvements in the late 1700’s, but lack of funding, jurisdictional squabbling, the Civil War, differing priorities, fledgling public-private ventures, a depression and lack of national authority continued to limit potential development in the Twin Rivers basin. (See ENGINEERS ON THE TWIN RIVERS, A History of the U.S. Army Engineers Nashville District 1769-1978, by Leland R. Johnson, online at http://cdm16021.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p16021coll4/id/109/rec/1.)

    By 1924, the Corps had completed 15 locks and dams on the Cumberland, assuring a six-foot channel depth. On the Tennessee River, funds appropriated to the Corps paid for construction of a lock at Hales Bar Dam, owned by the Chattanooga and Tennessee River Power Company. The Corps also constructed Wilson Dam, the largest hydroelectric installation in the world in 1926, to provide power for nearby nitrate plants and to improve navigation for Tennessee River traffic.

    The Muscle Shoals, Ala., facility’s double lift locks opened to navigation in 1927 with a normal lift of 93 to 100 feet, at the time highest in the world, now highest east of the Rocky Mountains. The design and engineering of the structures set two world records: the 4,862-foot length of the dam and the lock lift height. http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Locations/NavigationLocks/TennesseeRiver/Wilson.aspx.

    TVA is created by Congress

    After unsuccessful attempts by private industry to develop hydropower in the Tennessee Valley, President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to lift the nation out of the Great Depression included a request to Congress to create “a corporation clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise,” to address a wide range of issues.

    The Tennessee Valley Authority was created by Congressional Act on May 18, 1933 and later funded to build projects to reduce flood damage, improve navigation on the Tennessee River, provide electric power, and promote “agricultural and industrial development” in the region.

    During World War II, the United States needed aluminum to build bombs and airplanes, and aluminum plants required electricity. To provide power for such critical war industries, TVA engaged in one of the largest hydropower construction programs ever undertaken in the United States. The effort reached its peak in early 1942 when 12 hydroelectric projects and a steam plant were under construction at the same time, and design and construction employment reached 28,000.

    Initially, federal appropriations funded all TVA operations but appropriations for its power program ended in 1959, and appropriations for its environmental stewardship and economic development activities were phased out by 1999. TVA is now fully self-financing primarily through electricity sales to 155 power distributor customers and 56 directly served industries and federal facilities.

    TVA’s power service territory includes most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia, serving more than nine million people over 80,000 square miles.

    (Please see http://www.tva.gov/abouttva/history.htm for TVA accomplishments, challenges, current goals and its vision for 2020, while staying focused on its service-based mission of delivering reliable, low-cost electricity, environmental stewardship, river management, technological innovation and economic development across the region.)

    USACE Nashville District

    Nashville District is the southernmost district in the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division. It owns, operates and maintains the 10 dams, nine hydropower plants and the four navigation locks on the Cumberland River and its tributaries.

    District employees maintain 1,175 navigable river miles on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers; operate and maintain 10 TVA navigational locks on the Tennessee and Clinch Rivers; and remotely operate Detroit District’s Sault Ste. Marie hydropower plant in Michigan.

    “Our employees serve the region, the Corps and the Nation in areas of flood risk management, water supply, hydropower, navigation, recreation, environmental stewardship, emergency management and regulatory activities in a 56,000 square mile area that borders seven states,” said Lt. Col. John L. Hudson, Nashville District commander and professional engineer.

    Nashville District and the TVA have clearly defined areas of responsibility on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers and operate in a close partnership, according to Mike Wilson, deputy district engineer for Programs and Project Management.

    “Since 1933, TVA has developed multi-purpose projects on the Tennessee River and its tributaries and the Corps has developed multi-purpose projects on the Cumberland River and its tributaries,” Wilson said, “Mutually beneficial partnerships and relationships have been developed to better serve stakeholders in the Twin Rivers basin as stakeholder needs evolve,” he added.

    TVA owns the nine dams, hydropower plants and locks on the Tennessee River and the Melton Hill Dam on the Clinch River. TVA operates the dams, hydropower plants, manages water levels, flood risk reduction, recreational activities and other environmental issues at these facilities, and Nashville District operates and maintains the navigational locks and channels.

    The long-standing, close working relationship between TVA and Nashville District is symbolized by the Barkley Canal, connecting the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers a short distance upstream of the Barkley and Kentucky Dams. The 1.75 mile canal provides a navigable channel for both commercial and recreational vessels moving on the two rivers, and both reservoirs are operated as a unit for flood control and the production of hydropower.


    An estimated 4.3 billion tons of commerce have locked through Nashville District locks during an estimated 3.9 million lockages since 1888, according to Anita A. Jarrett, statistical assistant, Navigation Branch, Operations Division.

    “By law, dating back to the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1824, the Corps operates and maintains all navigable inland waterways in the United States,” said Jeff Ross, Navigation Branch chief. “Nashville District operates and maintains the nine TVA Locks on the Tennessee River, Melton Hill Lock on the Clinch River, and our four locks on the Cumberland River. We are also responsible for maintaining all navigation channels on both river systems,” Ross added.

    New construction and major rehabilitation of inland navigation facilities are cost shared 50/50 with Congressional appropriations and the Inland Waterways Trust Fund which is funded by a 20 cent tax levied on each gallon of commercial marine diesel fuel sold. This fund is not currently sufficient to cover all new construction and rehabilitation costs needed for the aging system and ongoing construction on at least one Nashville District project may soon come to a halt.

    Existing construction contracts on the Chickamauga Replacement Lock project in Chattanooga will be completed this year. If no additional funding is received the project will be mothballed. Alkali Aggregate Reaction, which causes the concrete to “grow,” will continue to create structural problems that will eventually cause the existing lock to be closed. The district’s goal is to complete the new lock before closure becomes necessary, according to Jamie James, project manager.

    “There are three navigation locks and 318 navigable stream miles upstream of Chickamauga Lock that would be isolated from the Inland Waterways System if the lock closed,” James said. “This would present difficulties in transporting materials to upstream industries, including TVA nuclear power plants, U.S. Department of Energy facilities at Oak Ridge, and the loss of transportation rate savings in that area,” James added.

    Flood Damage Reduction

    Although the devastation of the 2010 Nashville flooding remains seared in local memories, it was a 1,000 year rainfall event -- a 300 year flood event in downtown Nashville; in excess of a 500 year flood in other areas. Rainfall of more than 16 inches within 36 hours fell upon areas of the Cumberland River, filling it from watersheds below the Corps’ storage dams of J. Percy Priest, Center Hill, Dale Hollow and Wolf Creek, according to Bob Sneed, Nashville District water management chief.

    “It would have been considerably worse without those four dams constructed under the Flood Control Act of 1938, Public Law 75-761, holding back the water they did,” Sneed said. “Nashville District has more than five million acre-feet of flood control storage in its Cumberland River projects,” he added.

    Nashville District’s four storage dams, Wolf Creek, Dale Hollow, Center Hill and J. Percy Priest, have prevented an estimated cumulative total of $2.9 billion in damages since the first, Dale Hollow Dam, was completed for flood control in 1943, according to Phillip Jones, district senior economist.


    Nashville District produces about $40 million annual revenue by converting water’s energy into 3.4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 28 generators at its nine Hydropower Plants in the Cumberland River Basin, according to David Mistakovich, chief, Hydropower Branch.

    “Utilizing hydropower to generate electricity is a dependable, renewable, and environmentally-friendly power source,” Mistakovich said.

    However, with a lack of Federal funding for rehabilitation or replacement, Corps hydropower plants have exceeded their typical design life of 35-40 years, having been in service on average more than 50 years, and the risk of component failure increases with time.

    Keeping the aging generators and switchyards operating has been possible by the outstanding performance of the men and women who have operated and maintained this equipment over the decades with limited routine maintenance funds, according to Jay Sadler, mechanical engineer, Hydropower Branch.

    “Although our economical, ‘green’ Cumberland River hydropower plants don’t generate as much electricity as a fossil-fired or nuclear power plant, it is important that we have them to augment other power systems as needed. A major advantage is they can start and stop generating immediately, which the others cannot do,” Sadler said.

    An additional funding source was authorized by Section 212 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (PL 106-541), which allows hydropower revenues to be used for rehabilitating hydropower facilities in lieu of appropriations, which have been limited for this purpose.

    2011 MOA Provides Section 212 Rehabilitation Funding

    Subsequently, a 2011 Memorandum of Agreement was signed by the Department of the Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, the Department of Energy Southeastern Power Administration, and 24 SEPA preference customers which provides guidance, roles and responsibilities for managing the Section 212 rehabilitation program funding for the next 20 years.

    The SEPA markets electricity from the Cumberland System to public bodies and cooperatives, referred to as preference customers (signatories to the 2011 MOA). Receipts from these preference customers are forwarded to the Nashville District for major rehabilitation and modernization of its hydropower projects, according to Mistakovich.

    “This MOA is a win-win partnership mechanism for the rehabilitation and modernization of equipment for Nashville District’s power plants, and better guarantees continued low-cost energy for SEPA customers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Illinois,” Wilson said.

    “We are presently negotiating for an additional MOA to include the TVA and the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association to further increase funding for this mutually beneficial opportunity,” Wilson added.

    Under the current MOA, $20-30 million per year are expected to be collected and provided for rehabilitating Nashville District’s 28 hydropower generators, according to Wilson.

    “Over the next few years, we expect to collect $30-40 million per year for the hydropower rehabilitation program. These higher figures include anticipated increased power production at Wolf Creek and Center Hill Hydropower Plants when those lakes can be safely raised to their normal levels, and when the Corps successfully completes negotiations for an additional MOA to include the TVA and the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association,” Wilson added.

    SEPA plans to direct more than $1.2 billion into the Corps’ hydropower projects In the next 20 years.


    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the largest provider of water-based outdoor recreation in the nation. Its 422 lake and river projects in 43 states provide a diverse range of recreational opportunities. Visitors of all ages can enjoy traditional activities like hiking, boating, fishing, camping and hunting, and for those slightly more adventurous there is snorkeling, windsurfing, whitewater rafting,

    Nashville District was the most visited district in the Corps in 2010, and five of its 10 lakes stretching from Lake Cumberland in eastern Kentucky through middle Tennessee and up to Lake Barkley in western Kentucky are in the top 25 for visitation nationally.

    “Approximately 490 million visitors have utilized Nashville District attractions since 1999,” said Mark Klimaszewski, natural resource specialist. “We have 10 lakes, 3,265 campsites, 285 boat launch ramps, 211 miles of trails and 4,835 miles of shoreline,” he added.

    The public has access to water sports, camping, hiking, picnic areas, hunting and just relaxing amid the beauty of nature. District Park Rangers conduct an average of 70 extensive public safety/water safety programs annually to help them enjoy visits and return home safely.

    Visitors spend more than $725 million annually within a 30-mile radius of LRN projects, according to Klimaszewski.

    Environmental Stewardship

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental stewardship program protects, preserves, and restores significant ecological resources at Civil Works projects across the Nation. It contributes to the quality of American life by managing and conserving natural resources consistent with ecosystem management principles, and provides "islands of green" for many major metropolitan areas, including Nashville.

    Nashville District has the largest shoreline management program in the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division with 4,835 miles of shoreline. The district manages diverse and cultural resources on 195,121 acres of land and in 216,439 acres of water with minimal staffing.

    Each Ranger manages an average of 6,551 acres and there are currently more than 5,700 shoreline use permits in existence.

    A 10-mile paved trail system connects Shelby Bottoms Greenway to Nashville District’s Percy Priest Lake and links to the YMCA on Lebanon Road, Heartland Park, and Two Rivers Park along the way.

    Emergency Management

    Nashville District provides rapid support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, USACE, or State needs in national disasters, according to Jerry Breznican, Emergency Management chief.

    “We have a Roofing Planning and Response Team trained and ready to deploy and execute pre-scripted missions assigned by FEMA as we did during Hurricane Katrina,” Breznican said.

    Nashville District EM maintains a close liaison with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and with Kentucky Emergency Management to permit a seamless operation whenever a disaster strikes and joint assets are committed.

    “We also maintain and operate Emergency Command and Control Vehicle 8 to provide communication capabilities for USACE nationwide after a disaster,” Breznican said.

    Additionally, 70 LRN civilian employees have voluntarily deployed to Iraq and a total of 75 have voluntarily deployed to Afghanistan for overseas contingency operations. Presently, eight are deployed to Afghanistan.

    “I am extremely proud of our civilian employees’ willingness to volunteer to enter a war zone to support our Warfighters,” Breznican said.

    During the past 12 years, 270 district employees also deployed to disaster missions within CONUS.


    The Corps Regulatory program was established by passage of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. Initially, the mission was to protect and maintain the navigability of the Nation's waters, of which Nashville District alone has more than 5,500 miles of navigable waters subject to Regulatory jurisdiction under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. (As opposed to the 1,175 commercially navigable river miles on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers maintained by Navigation Branch.)

    “In the 1970’s the Corps Regulatory Program was significantly expanded with the passage of the Clean Water Act and subsequent Section 404 Regulatory program, which requires prior approval for the discharge of dredged or fill material into the waters of the United States, including wetlands,” said Tammy Turley, Regulatory Branch chief.

    Subsequently, many new regulations and policies have been implemented which contribute to the efficiency and consistency of the Regulatory Program. One of the more important ones was the development of general permits, which authorize categories of activities substantially similar in nature and cause only a minimal individual or cumulative adverse effect on the aquatic environment, according to Turley.

    “Examples of activities that may be authorized by a general permit include minor bank stabilization projects, utility line crossings, road crossings and repair of currently serviceable structures in waters of the United States. In fiscal 12, Nashville District’s Regulatory Branch completed 1,880 permit actions, including the verification of 1,653 general permits,” Turley said.

    For each permit decision, the Regulatory Program must weigh a proposed project’s benefits against its detrimental impacts, taking into account the views of federal, tribal, and state governments, and the general public. Regulatory staff must also work closely with permit applicants to avoid, minimize, and mitigate any impacts to aquatic resources. After permit decisions have been made, Regulatory staff conducts compliance inspections to ensure permittees implement actions needed to protect water resources, as required by their permits.

    Nashville District has also developed coordinated permitting procedures with the TVA to decrease the duplicate environmental, endangered species, and cultural resource reviews that were taking place at both agencies. Nashville District’s Regulatory Branch also recently issued a new general permit for use on TVA reservoirs, which will result in decreased permitting times for applicants and streamlined documentation of permit decisions.

    “While the complex character of the Regulatory program is still evolving as public needs, case law, and policy change, the Regulatory Mission of balancing the National concern for both protection of aquatic resources and appropriate development remains constant,” Turley concluded.

    Real Estate

    Nashville District manages over one-half million acres of Government owned land spread over a 59,000 square mile area and has property accountability for more than 3,000 real property items, according to Mike Abernathy, Real Estate Division chief.

    “We exercise management over 4,600 outgrants; 56 commercial concession marina leases, which is one of the largest marina programs in the country; and six state parks,” Abernathy said.

    The Real Estate Division also provides mapping, appraisal, and other support services to other district elements and outside customers, and is responsible for the acquisition of land and leasing property for the district, according to Mike Callahan, realty specialist.

    “We are also responsible for the Section 202 Flood Risk Reduction project in Harlan County, Ky., which involves the purchase of residential and commercial structures in flood-prone areas,” Callahan said.

    Today: The Four Major Construction Projects

    Wolf Creek Dam Seepage Remediation Project

    The $594 million Wolf Creek Dam Seepage Remediation Project to address its Dam Safety Action Classification I status stands at 92 percent complete and sufficient funding was provided this fiscal year to complete it. The crown jewel of the project, the 4,000 foot long barrier wall through the dam’s earthen embankment, was completed in March 2013, eight months ahead of schedule, according to Don Getty, Nashville District project manager.

    “The wall’s early completion allowed an incremental raise in Lake Cumberland this spring, about halfway from its lowered elevation to the typical maximum summer pool elevation. Lake Cumberland had been kept at a low elevation since January 2007 to reduce pressures on the dam’s leaking karstic limestone foundation,” Getty said. “It is our goal to return Lake Cumberland to its historical operating range next spring.”

    Remaining construction activities on the project include a short barrier wall downstream of the dam along the river to protect the switchyard area and removal of the remaining shot rock fill on the upstream slope of the dam that was placed to allow construction of the barrier wall. All construction activities are expected to be completed by September 2014.

    The scale and complexity of Wolf Creek’s barrier wall had never been attempted anywhere in the world. Nashville District’s success at completing this wall to such a high standard of quality has been recognized by a wide range of organizations. These include winning the Deep Foundations Institute 2013 Outstanding Project Award and the Association of State Dam Safety Officials 2013 National Dam Rehabilitation Project of the Year.

    Kentucky Lock Addition Project

    The $857 million Kentucky Lock Addition Project which has required constructing railroad and highway bridges across the Tennessee River to relocate rail and road traffic from the top of the dam, relocating TVA transmission towers and constructing an upstream cofferdam to build to build a new lock is 43 percent completed.

    “The Kentucky Lock Addition Project to build a new 110-by-1,200-foot lock parallel to the existing 110-by-600-foot lock at Tennessee River Mile 22.4 is needed to eliminate the delays that tows transiting Kentucky Lock currently experience,” said Adam Walker, Nashville District project manager.

    With the $39.7 million received in the fiscal 2013 work plan, work on the upstream portion of the new lock is expected to be funded through fiscal 2015, according to Walker.

    A total of $368 million has been obligated through fiscal 2013 (3rd Quarter). The project is 43 percent completed.

    New construction and major rehabilitation of inland navigation facilities are cost shared 50/50, with Congressional appropriations and the Inland Waterways Trust Fund which is funded by a 20 cent tax levied on each gallon of commercial marine diesel fuel sold. This fund is not presently sufficient to cover all new construction and rehabilitation costs needed for the aging system.

    “Without additional funding beyond this, we expect the project to be mothballed in fiscal 2016,” Walker added.

    Center Hill Dam Seepage Rehabilitation Project

    The $300M Center Hill Dam Seepage Rehabilitation Project to address foundation seepage is about 40% percent complete, according to Linda Adcock, Nashville District project manager. The seepage problem has caused the project to be classified in the Corps Dam Safety Action Classification I, the highest priority for remediation.

    A 2008-2010 $87 million grouting contract was an important first step to reduce the seepage in the karst limestone rock on which the earthen dam was founded when it was constructed in the 1940’s. The grouting also provided valuable information about the condition of the rock and prepared the foundation for subsequent work, the foundation barrier wall.

    “The current $120 million project to construct a barrier wall into the earthen embankment and foundation is the main protective feature for the main dam,” Adcock said. “Bauer Foundation Corporation is using their MC 128 Hydrocutter, largest of its type in the world, built especially for this project to cut overlapping 10.5-by-7.5-foot elements through the embankment and into the top of rock to form the protective encasement wall,” she added.

    In the fall of 2013, Bauer will begin to construct the barrier wall. The equipment will excavate down from the top of the dam, through the concrete encasement wall and up to 130 feet into the limestone rock to build the wall. The barrier wall consists of overlapping concrete piles (approximately 4-foot round) and panels (about 3-foot thick and 10.5-feet long). Wall completion is expected in the summer of 2015.

    A contract to reinforce the earthen saddle dam, built to fill a low area about 1,500 feet east of the main dam, is expected to be awarded in the summer of 2014 and project completion date is December 2016, according to Adcock.

    Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project

    The $693 million Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project to replace the more than 70-year-old, badly deteriorating 60-by-360-foot lock with a 110-by-600-foot chamber is 27 percent completed, with $185 million obligated.

    Existing construction contracts on the Chickamauga Lock Replacement Lock project will be completed this year. If no additional funding is received the project construction will be suspended. Alkali Aggregate Reaction, which causes the concrete to “grow,” will continue to create structural problems that will eventually cause the existing lock to be closed, according to Jamie James, Nashville District project manager.

    “Nashville District’s goal is to complete the new lock before closure becomes necessary,” James said. “There are three navigation locks and 318 navigable stream miles upstream of Chickamauga Lock that would be isolated from the Inland Waterways System if the lock is closed. This would present difficulties in transporting materials to upstream industries, including TVA nuclear power plants, U.S. Department of Energy facilities at Oak Ridge, and the loss of transportation rate savings in that area,” he added.



    Date Taken: 08.15.2013
    Date Posted: 08.15.2013 11:54
    Story ID: 112023
    Location: NASHVILLE, TN, US 

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