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Inspection of Rogersville's 64-year-old TVA dam reveals no serious issues

Jeff Bobo • Oct 18, 2019 at 8:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — A recent inspection at the John Sevier Dam near Rogersville revealed no serious safety, stability or structural issues, and the Tennessee Valley Authority said Wednesday it has no plans to remove the dam.

Some local officials expressed concerns about the future of the dam to the Times News earlier this month. This after an internal TVA report released in September stated that a study was underway to “verify the safety and integrity of the dam,” which is located on the Holston River just south of Rogersville.

The report indicated the 64-year-old dam, which was used to store water for the old John Sevier Coal Plant, was not needed to cool the natural gas power plant that replaced the coal plant in 2012.

The 25 foot spillway raises water elevation and creates a calming effect on the river upstream which is important to local boating and fishing.

One Rogersville realtor expressed concern that removal of the dam might decrease property values along the Holston River throughout much of Hawkins County by creating a more shallow, swift moving Holston River east of Rogersville.

TVA spokesman Travis Brickey told the Times News on Wednesday that the TVA is in the process of conducting a routine five-year inspection of the John Sevier dam, and there is currently no plan to remove the dam.

“This was a formal, comprehensive 5-year inspection of all the dam by a team of experts looking at components as well as performance and documentation reviews to verify the safety and integrity of the dam,” Brickey said. “It included the south earth embankment, a concrete non-overflow section with decommissioned lift gates, concrete gravity overflow spillway and the north earth embankment protected with concreted riprap.”

Brickey added, “TVA currently has no plan to remove the dam, and we have identified no serious safety, stability or structural issues at the dam.”

The dam is a weir — a small overflow dam used to raise the level of a stream or river, and it was built in 1955 to store water for cooling condensers at the John Sevier Coal Plant.

Dam project manager Jim Bryant stated in a TVA report released in September that safety inspectors consider potential risks at the John Sevier Dam such as overtopping, seepage, settlement, erosion, sediment, cracking, earth movement, earthquakes, failure of bulkhead gates, or other conditions which exist or might occur in areas near the dam.

“John Sevier Dam is one of TVA's smaller dams and it doesn't serve the cooling role it once did,” Bryant stated in the report. “Still, we inspect all of our dams, no matter how large or small, to assess any risks and detect potential issues before they become serious problems.”

Bryant added that inspectors will be paying particular attention to the dam’s south earth embankment; a concrete non-overflow section with decommissioned lift gates; the concrete gravity overflow spillway; and an earth embankment on the north bank protected with concrete riprap.

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