By PETTUS READ
Who would have ever thought that come this time of the year, yards would be growing like mid-spring, gardens would have to be weeded everyday and farm crops would be receiving rain to the point of almost too much.
I never thought I would hear a farmer say that his crop had too much water in the middle of July, but I did witness that the other day and have seen it myself. Some crops have even turned yellow, but not from being dry as we usually think, but from being too wet. This is quite an unusual summer so far.
But, in some parts of the state the water amount has been perfect and they are doing the opposite from saying too much to saying let it keep up the good work. Corn and soybeans are looking real good and if things continue, it should be one of the best years in a long time.
However, if your cropland is located in river bottoms, there is concern due to large volumes of water being moved down the Tennessee River system. The Tennessee Valley Authority is working to move large volumes of water ? as much as 1 million gallons per second in some places ? along the Tennessee River system to reduce potentially damaging flooding from record rainfall. That’s like 1 million gallon milk jugs of water going over some of the dams per second.
In a telephone conversation with TVA General Manger of TVA River Operations Chuck Bach, he explained that TVA prepared for this event by lowering reservoir levels on the main channel of the Tennessee River beginning the last week of June, leaving some areas below normal for this time of year.
However, extreme rainfall and runoff in the middle and eastern portions of the Tennessee Valley over the past week are now forcing TVA to spill or release excess water from 10 of 20 tributary dams and all nine main channel dams along the 652-mile Tennessee River.
“TVA’s management of the river system is working,” said Bach.“TVA will spill only when all available hydroelectric-generating turbines are operating at full capacity and additional water still needs to be moved.”
TVA expects spilling along the dams to last one to two weeks. As this water moves through the system, agricultural crops planted in floodplain areas along the Tennessee River in Northern Alabama and West Tennessee will be impacted by higher than normal water elevations. Even though areas where the higher water is occurring may not be getting a lot of rain, all up stream rainfall has been occurring way beyond the average. In a typical year the TVA system expects to receive around 51 inches, but so far has received more than 40 inches with more rain issues expected.
“Some crop fields near the banks of the Tennessee River will see up to six to eight feet of water,” Bach said. “Crops along the Tennessee River on Kentucky reservoir will be impacted the most.”
TVA reports that within the Tennessee River system, there have been reports of flooding in Chattanooga; Whitesburg and Florence, Ala.; and Savannah, Tenn., near Pickwick reservoir.
They say some recreational areas along the Tennessee River have been temporarily closed because of high water. Recreation areas on Douglas and Watauga reservoirs in Tennessee and Wilson reservoir near Florence, Ala., are among those most impacted.
“We advise using extreme caution when near the dams, rivers and tributaries,” Bach said. “Safety is the No. 1 priority, and river currents and speed are unpredictable.”
Watauga reservoir, near Elizabethton Tenn., set a record lake elevation on Monday at 1,967 feet above sea level ? about a foot higher than the previous record set last May. A forecast of additional rain later in the week could add one or two more inches of water into the already-flooded system.
To keep up to date on current water level data and water releases you may contact the TVA offices at 865-632-6065. TVA remodels the river four times a day to deal with current conditions and to keep the public and farmers along the possible flood areas informed.
When you are in the farming business you always see rain most of the time as a good thing. Just like all good things, sometimes you can get too much, but hopefully the good will out weigh the too much for our farmers.
- Pettus L. Read is Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org