By Max Hrenda
Typically, this is the time of year the Tennessee Valley Authority begins adding water to Watauga Lake to raise it to its usual summer elevation.
Typical went down the drain this year.
In light of this week’s heavy rainfall, TVA has been forced to release excess water through its system – at almost 1.4 million gallons per minute.
“When you convert it to gallons per minute, it’s a staggering amount,” said TVA Plant Operations Manager Kevin Swanson. “The flow out of your faucet at home is usually five to 10 gallons per minute.”
For the workers of the Watauga powerhouse, the overflow could not have come at a worse time. Normally, the excess water would be flowed through TVA’s river system using the powerhouse’s generating turbines. In this case, however, one of the two turbines is undergoing maintenance.
“When we had the rain, we said, ‘Guys, we’re going to have to start staying late and move some of this water,’” Swanson said. “The one that’s in service now is putting out about 1,900 cubic feet per second.”
Although the working turbine is still pushing water at 855,000 gallons per minute, because of the exceptionally high volume of water, TVA also opened a sluice built into a nearby mountain to force water from nearby Watauga Dam to flow past the powerhouse and into Wilbur Lake.