Tennessee planning multi-organizational effort to remove Roaring River Dam

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, a state agency dedicated to the preservation, conservation, and enhancement of Tennessee’s fish and wildlife, yesterday announced plans to remove the Roaring River Dam in a multi-organizational effort.

Participating agencies include: TWRA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Southern Aquatic Resources Partnership.

TWRA did not provide the project’s start date or cost. But, the agency said it is targeting the dam for removal because the structure at its base is eroding in what is known as a “head cut,” creating a risk that could cause the dam to fail.

Rather than repair the dam, TWRA said it and the Corps determined removal was a better option. The removal is also the largest-ever Tennessee dam removal project for river and stream restoration.

“With the dam failing, it has provided an opportunity to enhance the connectivity within the Roaring River Watershed,” said Mark Thurman, TWRA Region III Fisheries coordinator.

“While the barrier has not excluded reservoir species, it does still function as a barrier through most of the year. Removing the dam will open up the river for fish such as white bass, sauger, smallmouth bass and redhorse. It will also benefit other species such as the eastern hellbender, whose numbers have declined across the species range.”

Constructed by the Corps in 1976, the Roaring River Dam is about 220 feet in length and 15 feet in height, located in Jackson County about five miles from the Cordell Hull Dam catchment.

Although TWRA chose to remove Roaring Dam, other dams in Tennessee that are part of hydropower projects are being rehabilitated.

In June, HydroWorld.com reported the Corps’ Nashville District announced contractors successfully installed a 249-ton hydropower rotor in Unit 2 as part of the US$47.25 million contract to rehabilitate three units at the 155-MW Center Hill hydropower project located on the Caney Fork River in Dekalb County.

Modernization and rehabilitation contracts were also awarded in February for hydropower facilities in Tennessee along the Cumberland River that include the 100-MW Old Hickory and 54-MW Dale Hollow.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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