The Tennessee Valley Authority is installing a new safety warning system at Watauga Dam in Carter County and modifying others to improve public safety during water releases from the dams.
The Watauga Dam warning system — which began operating on Sept. 26 — includes signs, warning horns and strobe lights to alert the public to water discharges that can cause a rapid rise in water levels below the dam. The warning horns will not be activated at night, so nearby residences will not be disturbed. Existing warning systems at 11 other dams are being modified to activate only strobe light warning systems at night prior to water level changes. New signs will inform the public that warning sirens or horns will not be used during nighttime hours. These changes should be complete by Oct. 30 at the following dams:
•Blue Ridge Dam
•Fort Patrick Henry Dam
•Great Falls Dam
•Ocoee No. 1 Dam
•South Holston Dam
•Tims Ford Dam
“During daylight hours, the horns and strobe lights will be automatically activated prior to water level changes as a safety warning to the public. When the warning systems are activated, anglers and the public should quickly move to safe areas,” TVA Senior Vice President of River Operations John McCormick said.
“At night, only the strobe lights will activate at these 12 dams to reduce noise at local residences. The warning systems at the other eight tributary dams and the nine dams on the Tennessee River will not change.”
Also being modified is the existing spillway warning system at Wilbur Dam. The powerhouse at Wilbur Dam has four generating units; three are operated manually and the fourth is operated remotely from TVA’s power control center in Chattanooga. TVA is modifying the warning system to activate automatically when unit four is turned on. Site personnel will continue to monitor downstream activity before the three manually controlled units are used. Wilbur Dam is located just downstream from Watauga Dam.