Corps continues to carefully manage water after recent rainfall

Wolf Creek Dam on the Cumberland River at Lake Cumberland in Jamestown, Ky., discharges water Feb. 24, 2019. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is increasing the releases today from 45,000 cubic feet per second to 60,000 cfs. (Photo by Misty Cravens)

NASHVILLE – As rainfall runoff makes its way through the Cumberland River Basin, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is quickly turning its attention to drawing down its storage reservoirs.

The Cumberland River received widespread amounts of rain ranging from a half inch to four inches since Saturday and the river crested at 40.93 feet in Nashville this morning, which is minor flood stage. The river level has already fallen below minor flood stage and is currently 39.9 feet.  The stage at Clarksville is 50.4 feet, which is just above moderate flood stage (50 feet). 

Anthony Rodino, Nashville District Water Management Section chief, said now that the latest rainfall system has moved out of the region, the water management plan is to begin discharging water to lower the lake levels at Lake Cumberland, Dale Hollow Lake, Center Hill Lake and J. Percy Priest Lake, while taking into account downstream conditions where rainfall runoff is still making its way through the system.

“It will take several months to reduce these lake levels to more seasonal levels,” Rodino said.  “What this means is there will be higher than seasonal water releases from Wolf Creek Dam (Jamestown, Ky.) on the Cumberland River, from Dale Hollow Dam (Celina, Tenn.) on the Obey River, from Center Hill Dam (Lancaster, Tenn.) on the Caney Fork River, and from J. Percy Priest Dam (Nashville, Tenn.) on the Stones River as the Corps manages water levels at these projects.”

Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, Nashville District commander, said the dams in the Cumberland River Basin are holding a lot of water right now, but they operated perfectly during heavy rains to provide flood risk reduction benefits to the region.

“It’s a great news story,” Jones said.  “While there were localized flooding impacts, especially along unregulated waterways, the Corps of Engineers dams held a lot of water back. I’m proud of our world-class water management team for balancing holding water at storage projects and releasing water when and where conditions allowed it.”

Nashville District’s water managers said the water level in Nashville would have exceeded 55 feet without the dams holding water during recent rains.  The water level in Nashville crested in minor flood stage near 41 feet, so the dams reduced the water level on the Cumberland River in Music City over 14 feet.

This is the water level Feb. 24, 2019 at Wolf Creek Dam in Jamestown, Ky. The lake is at its highest level since the Corps of Engineers constructed the dam 70 years ago. (Photo by Misty Cravens) 

Wolf Creek Dam in Jamestown, Ky., is stepping up releases from 45,000 cubic feet per second to 60,000 cfs this afternoon. This discharge is the largest ever made from the dam.  This means that water will completely fill the river channel downstream of the dam.  Coupled with rainfall runoff it will likely impact areas near the river and cause some backwater with other small streams that run into the river.

With the increased discharge at Wolf Creek Dam, the area by Kendall Campground below the dam is being closed for public safety reasons.

Lake Cumberland is 754.27 feet as of noon today. A total of 83 percent of the flood control pool is currently being utilized. With the larger release from Wolf Creek Dam, water managers are continuing to balance discharges from other reservoirs to minimize impacts throughout the Cumberland River Basin.

Based on calculations and discussions with the National Weather Service Ohio River Forecast Center, these increases will not push stages in Nashville or Clarksville higher than current forecasts but will result in elevated stages all along the Cumberland River for quite some time. With system releases, the forecasts are showing the river maintaining approximately a 39-foot stage in Nashville and 42-foot stage in Clarksville.

The Nashville District is also operating Barkley Reservoir in conjunction with Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kentucky Reservoir to assist with flood risk management operations for the lower Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The stage of the Ohio River at Cairo, Ill., is currently 54.8 feet with a forecasted crest of 56.5 feet (major flood stage is 53.0 feet) next weekend.

For more information about how the Nashville District operates the Cumberland River Reservoir System, see the Water Management Education Series at

As necessary, news and information regarding water management and flood operations will be made available on the district’s website at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter at

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