SULLIVAN / WASHINGTON CO.,TN (WJHL) In the days immediately after the October 2014 discovery of a structural problem at Boone Dam, internal TVA emails show staff had serious concerns about the dam and the potential impact on the safety of people downstream. And emails reveal the agency was preparing for a possible long-term repair several months before TVA announced its five-year repair effort.
That information and more is found in newly obtained internal TVA communications obtained by News Channel 11 through a public records request.
The emails – redacted by TVA – show the agency’s response in the hours, days and weeks after a sinkhole formed at the base of the dam in October, 2014.
At 8:29 am on October 20th, a TVA employee at Boone Dam alerted his managers about a sinkhole in a parking lot about 75 feet downstream of Boone Dam. “That’s a rather large hole to have developed so quickly,” a TVA colleague writes back later that day.
But emails reveal concerns heightened in the following days when staff spotted brown clouds of sediment billowing out of an embankment downstream, a sign that water was moving near the base of the dam and carrying earth with it – not a good thing near a dam made of dirt. Constructed in 1950, Part of Boone Dam is earth-filled while the other part is concrete.
Ten days later, TVA publicly announced the formation of the sinkhole and the discovery of sediment seepage, and TVA discussed their plans to lower down Boone Lake at an accelerated rate while engineers inspected the dam.
“I would not say this is an emergency but there is urgency so it doesn’t develop into an emergency situation,” one TVA dam safety manager wrote in November 2015.
TONIGHT at 6pm on News Channel 11, Josh Smith reports on what the internal emails reveal about TVA’s initial response to the Boone Dam safety alert. You’ll hear why some still question TVA’s process and timing – specifically the decision not to alert the public about the likelihood of a multi-year impact impact on Boone Lake, something that’s had a significant financial impact on the lake’s residents and business owners.
And later tonight, you’ll be able to read the TVA emails for yourself here on WJHL.com.
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