WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Water will rise again on Boone Lake in October after a dam repair project nearly seven years in the making. The TVA plans to raise water levels up seven feet by mid-November. Amidst ongoing efforts to clean and prepare the lake, TVA officials are asking lake residents to prepare and boaters to use caution once the water returns.
Parts of Boone Lake have been drained since 2014 to repair a sinkhole at the dam. TVA officials told News Channel 11 on Thursday the project is on schedule for completion. By summer 2021, the TVA plans to raise Boone Lake to around its normal pool level.
Chris Cooper, manager of TVA’s Natural Resources Management, said lakegoers should expect possible fluctuations through the summer of 2022 while the repaired dam is tested. Cooper said boaters will need to be cautious of floating debris, particularly after storms.
“Users need to pay attention. It’s not the same lake that they knew. And they will adjust the lake periodically so every day could be a new day out here for hazards that may appear,” said Cooper.
Managing the growing vegetation around the lowered or dried lake beds has been a major part of the TVA’s lake restoration efforts. To create safer conditions when the water returns, the TVA is mulching, cutting, and clearing hundreds of acres of hazardous vegetation along the lake.
“We’ve got track skid steers, track excavators, equipment that’s floating on barges. Working that through next February, that’s going to allow us to get a vast majority of this vegetation removed,” said Kevin Holbrook, senior manager of civil construction for the TVA.
Holbrook noted not all vegetation would be cleared by February, but raising water levels will allow them to manage overgrowth in areas that can’t currently be reached.
The TVA has an ongoing partnership with the Boone Lake Association. On Thursday, two BLA workers could be seen on a boat cleaning the lake of stray branches and debris.
“Our guys are out there 40 hours a week, trying to get that trash and debris off the lake to make it a little bit safer and cleaner,” said BLA president Jon Wireman.
The BLA’s annual cleanup day event will be held Saturday. Community members are encouraged to come out and remove trash and debris from the water and shoreline of the lake, in exchange to be entered for cash prizes.
When the water returns, anything left in the lakebed will float. Wireman says property owners along the lake need to clear overgrowth and debris before levels rise in mid-October.
“They need to clean all the way up to the normal summer lake levels,” he said.
The TVA says property owners also need to check their temporary structure permits to ensure docks are in compliance.
“Just constantly watching the water levels and their temporary structures. We don’t want those to get stranded or end up being extra debris, a safety issue in the water as it comes up,” said Cooper.
All precautions and planning aside, the TVA and BLA are excited boaters, fisherman, and homeowners will have their lake back after years of waiting.
“When we return this reservoir, it’s going to be a great place for a long time,” said Holbrook.