“This has a huge affect on rate payers in Tennessee. If the repairs to Center Hill Dam are not designated as being necessary for dam safety, then Tennesseans will have to fork over $300 million extra in their electric bills to pay for those repairs. The longer we wait to repair Center Hill, the more it will cost to the people of Middle Tennessee.”
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today told the Lieutenant General Robert Van Antwerp, the Chief Engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that Tennessee’s Center Hill Dam needs to be declared a safety issue so that adequate repairs can be made.
“I believe the repairs at Center Hill Dam in Tennessee should be considered necessary for dam safety like the ones at the Wolf Creek Dam in Kentucky,” said Alexander during a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW). “Both of these dams sit on a kind of limestone that erodes away and that’s the reason the water levels have been lowered. They suffer the same problems, but the dam in Tennessee has not been designated and the one in Kentucky has. This has a huge affect on rate payers in Tennessee. If the repairs to Center Hill Dam are not designated as being necessary for dam safety, then Tennesseans will have to fork over $300 million extra in their electric bills to pay for those repairs.”
Both the Center Hill and the Wolf Creek Dams were designated “high risk” for failure in January of 2007, but the Corps was authorized to repair only Wolf Creek. Alexander said that currently ratepayers in Middle Tennessee have to pay an additional $100 million a year in replacement power while water levels at the dams are down for the repairs.
“Furthermore, the delay in repair at Center Hill means the water levels are low and that water is not available downstream,” Alexander said. “Tennessee has just suffered the worst drought in over 100 years. Lakes and streams dried up that have never dried up before, and if we had made the appropriate repairs to these dams, we would have been able to supply enough water to areas affected by the extreme drought. The longer we wait to repair Center Hill, the more it will cost to the people of Middle Tennessee.”
The EPW Committee met today to discuss the implementation of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which authorizes funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and allocates its budget. WRDA passed the House by a vote of 381 to 40, and passed the Senate by a vote of 81 to 12. President Bush vetoed the legislation on November 2. A two-thirds majority of both the House and Senate is required to override a veto. The week after the President vetoed WRDA, the House voted 361 to 54 and the Senate, including Alexander, voted 79 to 14 to override the veto.